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2.23.2005

Sly As a Redd Foxx 

Barry Bonds came to camp yesterday and had a friendly chat with the media. Just in case you're like Barry and assume reporters are liars and news stories are no better than re-runs of Sanford and Son, here's the raw transcript. (For the truly uncensored version, click here.)

Bonds said everything that makes the people who hate him, hate him, and the people who love him, uh, scratch their heads. For the record, I fall into neither camp. I do not love him or hate him. I don't really know him, which is how he likes it, and how I like it. I don't want Barry to be my best friend or the media's best friend.

He would serve his own cause better by not calling reporters "liars," but that's his call. As a journalist myself, I resent the broad negative brush he paints with; journalists are no better than other professions: some are good, some bad, a lot mediocre. I've never been a sports reporter -- perhaps they're a different breed, more comfortable, less willing to stir the pot until something like BALCO drops and they're forced to gear up into bulldog mode. If this is true, it's likely because a daily beat reporter who's in the clubhouse every day from March to October has to strike a balance -- too pushy, too aggressive, too confrontational, and bam, you're out of there. No more access. Perhaps that's why the Chronicle had two investigative reporters, not Henry Schulman, working on the BALCO story.

This is speculation, not inside knowledge, but having danced around the block a few times with powerful, media-savvy organizations like Microsoft and various branches of the U.S. government, I understand that it's a fine, difficult line to walk between keeping the access and getting too chummy.

As for Bonds, I respect his stubborn refusal to play the PR game. He is what he is: a strange, childish, insightful, and arrogant man. He's a jerk, but he's a fascinating jerk, and I hope he carries the Giants to a World Series victory.

Is he a liar about steroids and other illegally procured substances? His leaked grand jury testimony -- that he didn't know what he was rubbing on his body -- made me roll my eyes, but I will keep an open mind. (Although I reserve the right to make cheap "nudge nudge wink wink flaxseed oil" jokes at every opportunity.)

If eventually we learn the answer is yes, he lied to the grand jury, and he's been lying to the press and public, is it a Clintonian lie from a man backed into a corner by a society that's out for blood over an insignificant peccadillo? Or is it more egregious, a breach of the public trust, as well as a law-breaking act before a grand jury?

Unlike a lot of other blogs, I'm not very good at making grand, frothy pronouncements about what I believe re. steroids, partially because that's my nature (I'm a sensitive Libra!), but more because I'm torn. I understand the libertarian "what's-the-problem-as-long-as-you're-not-hurting-others" position (although there are serious problems with it); I understand the "cheating-bastards-let's-get-em!" position (ditto, serious problems). I have feelings on both sides and in various shades of gray between them.

As for reporters, though, you can be sure that there are plenty out there digging through grand jury testimonies, trash cans behind major league stadiums, off-season workout regimens, what have you, to get to the bottom of the steroid story. My guess is that sooner or later we'll find out how complicit the MLB power structure -- from field managers and trainers to GMs and owners and the commissioner's office -- has been in letting steroids become such an explosive issue.

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