NOVEMBER 16, 2007
Barry Bonds was just indicted on several charges…but really, the crime he’s committed is that he’s just a jerk. He did the same thing as several other Major League Baseball players (use anabolic steroids), but let’s be honest …he was a jerk about it.
Technically, Bonds is charged with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice, as well as of obstructing justice by committing perjury and by giving evasive and misleading testimony. Of course, he’s also got a claim to be the best player of his generation, practically raised from birth to be exactly that – by a father who was an all-star major league ball player, a godfather who is Willie Mays, and a cousin who is Reggie Jackson.
But let’s be honest here…Mark McGwire wasn’t exactly forthcoming in his testimony before Congress, and his home-run record was just as steroid-fueled as Bonds’ was. But the major difference was that we all love Big Mac…well, all of us except Bonds, who claimed that the only reason Mark was allowed to get away with his record setting season while on steroids was that he’s a “white boy”. But Bonds’ is overlooking a very important part of what Mark didn’t do…he wasn’t a jerk about it.
Throughout his career, Bonds was abrasive towards the press while McGwire was personable and charismatic. In America, we prefer our heroes to be nice guys…or at least the kind of guy we can accept. Babe Ruth wasn’t a particularly great role model for kids, but he was a likeable guy…Giambi, McGwire, Palmero, etc…all were likable guys, and as a society we were eager to forgive their sins. We were eager to accept these guys for who they are – steroids or not- because they were likable, and we genuinely believed that they played the game for the love of it.
Bonds, on the other hand, is not a likable guy, and we never believed that he did anything for the love of the game…at least not since he told us otherwise in a 2002 issue of The New York Times Magazine, saying:
“The last game I played was in college. Ever since then it’s been a business.”
After the steroid allegations began popping up for Bonds, he got even worse…then there was the book, “Game of Shadows” which portrayed him as something just shy of a serial killer on the likability-scale. And let’s not forget that his testimony before Congress was nothing sort of an exercise in evasive speaking and almost flaunting the fact that yes, he did use anabolic steroids, but no, we weren’t going to get the satisfaction of a straight answer out of him. What a jerk.
During Babe Ruth’s record setting season, the entire country was pulling for him to astound us. When Roger Maris and Micky Mantle were on pace to break the immortal Babe’s record, the country was watching every game with anticipation – even if the jury was divided on Maris at the time (although the court of public opinion ruled in favor of Maris afterwards). Fast forward to Mark McGwire’s record setting season, and we saw the entire country watching him and Sammy Sosa revitalize the entire game of baseball…they were having fun, and even congratulated each other when the record was broken, McGwire going so far as to walk over to the stands where the Maris family was seated to acknowledge them. We believed that this was a good role model, playing for the love of the game, and having fun – this was a guy we could have a beer with.Nobody wanted an asterisk attached to this record. We felt like he was hitting homeruns for all of us…to stamp our generation’s mark on the sport. We got emotionally attached to Mark, and we cringed when he had to testify before Congress, and we cheered when he didn’t (exactly) lie, and were happy that we could put that all behind us. No asterisk necessary.
Bonds, on the other hand, seemed to hit home-runs to spite us. He wanted records to fall because he was playing to beat Congress, and to make his testimony seem like a slickly worded slap in the face to all of us. We saw him as a lying businessman who was allowed by Congress to fool us all while he earned his paychecks. We saw him as the baseball equivalent of Enron, and the record seemed like Arthur Anderson compiled its statistics.
Every interview with the media reminded us that he was more than willing to lie, and every time he opened his mouth we heard him talk about how good he is, and how he’s going to break this record or that record – and as a country we didn’t want that to happen. We all have an emotional investment in the records that we have seen set in our lifetime…and we didn’t want to make that investment in Bonds, who reminds us only of a cheater who didn’t play a game he loved, but simply as a businessman who worked in the business of baseball.
We booed him and asked for an asterisk…and got one when the ball he broke the record with was stamped with an asterisk before being donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame. When we remember his record(s), we are left emotionally bankrupt. All because he is – lets face it – a total jerk.
And now, he’s facing criminal charges for what he’s done. And I know that the charges, technically say that he lied and mislead…but his real crime is that he didn’t lie or mislead…and maybe he should have. Maybe he should have tried to lie to us all and mislead us into thinking he was a decent guy, a guy who played a game he loved…because we can forgive steroid use in someone like that. We’ve done it before, right?
But he didn’t lie. He was himself, and his self is a jerk- and that’s the real reason he was indicted.