Commentary: Bonds apologists passionate, puzzling
New York ? You want to feel sorry for him. No matter how many illegal substances Barry Bonds injected and digested, no matter how selfishly he violated sport’s most sacred code of fair play, he is still a human being, a son, a father, even a friend to a certain few. Cut his veins and presumably red blood would gush forth. He has been known to cry, to feel pain.
He has been harshly judged and roundly vilified. You remind yourself of this in your kinder moments, when you think of all the other athletes you’ve ultimately pardoned. Wife-beaters, cocaine abusers, racists, misogynists – you recount all those boorish, spoiled men who have done horrible deeds and remember how they eventually earned second, even third chances in your heart.
So why the skepticism? Why does Bonds rankle so? Is it because he’s unrepentant? Jason Giambi offered that faux apology about what we assume was his prodigious consumption of steroids, and all is mostly forgiven. You know it’s useless trying to get Gary Sheffield to budge from his defiant, nonsensical stance that he didn’t know what stuff he was putting in or on his body.
You’re beyond hoping Bonds will admit to doing what dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of baseball players did for decades, in their pursuit of large muscles, faster recovery time, improved eye sight, increased bat speed and, mostly, obscene contracts. You wonder if maybe he’ll write a truthful tell-all tome should he serve prison time for lying to a grand jury, or for income-tax evasion.
And there it is, the moment that crystallizes why you can’t excuse or forget Bonds’ transgressions. And why you can’t comprehend how honorable men like the Mets’ Cliff Floyd, David Wright and Tom Glavine (to name only a few) can continue to defend someone who beyond a smidgen of a doubt (in your eyes) attained his eye- popping stats illegitimately, through serial steroid use.
The disconnect between the caretakers of the game and the fans is mind-boggling. It depresses you to listen to the Mets say they can’t wait to shake Bonds’ hand, to congratulate him. “Nobody’s proven anything,” Floyd says, a line that echoes throughout the clubhouse.
Wrong, you say, and list just some of the evidence both “Game of Shadows” authors and federal investigators painstakingly catalogued in the case against Bonds: doping calendars seized in a raid on the BALCO offices that showed the amount and times Bonds used insulin, human growth hormone and steroids created to improve the muscle quality of beef cattle. There were statements to federal agents from the people who provided the drugs to Bonds, grand jury testimony from people who witnessed or had knowledge of Bonds’ steroid consumption, more documents obtained at the house of Bonds’ personal trainer that detailed his use, including papers that reflected his payment for such drugs.
Floyd says he doesn’t know about all that; he needs real proof, the sort Rafael Palmeiro provided when he tested positive for the powerful anabolic steroid stanozolol.
On one hand you understand: To condemn Bonds is to condemn so many others, but you also wonder what sort of message this unconditional blind-eyed support sends to children. Floyd acknowledges this conundrum. Nonetheless, his defense of Bonds is as passionate as your disgust.
“You don’t know what it’s like to walk in our shoes, to be a lefthanded hitter, to know how hard it is to do what he does in the bottom of the ninth,” says Floyd. He’s right. You don’t. You don’t understand at all.