Old Ben on Sports: The Barry Bonds Trial
A stench of hypocrisy hangs over the city of San Francisco, where former Giants slugger Barry Bonds stands trail. Earlier this week, the showcase trial in the U.S. government’s takedown of the BALCO organization began with a vigorous opening statement from the Barry Bonds’ attorney, Allen Ruby, and a mind numbing 46 minute incantation from assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella. The specifics would take many paragraphs to describe but the heart of the trial is this: Did Barry Bonds lie about steroid use under oath in his 2003 grand jury testimony? Ruby says no, it was flaxseed oil and arthritis cream. Parella says yes, just look at this guy…oh and here’s some shitty “evidence.” Over the coming months, they will fight over hearsay from ex-girlfriends, “eyewitness testimony” from ex-Bonds cohorts, and the acuteness of Barry Bond’s memory, but none of it will matter. Not one bit. Bonds will get a year or two probation, maybe a tiny bit of jail time…OR…HE MIGHT GET OFF SCOTT FREE!!!! Regardless, the only things worth taking away from this mess will be the incredible hypocrisy of and shocking misuse of resources and time by the U.S. government.
Thinking about this trail brings to mind a legal proceeding from just a few years ago. In March 2005, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose “the most honest man in America” Conseco, and other major leaguers were brought before the U.S. Congress to testify about steroid use in baseball. Conseco had just dropped his bombshell, Juiced, and Congress decided it was time to defend the honor of the national pastime. Lets not even get into the incredible, irresponsible waste of time a long congressional hearing into PED use in baseball is. Lets just look at what happened during the hearing, specifically what Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire said. McGwire, when asked a direct question about his steroid use, said “I’m not here to talk about the past.” When asked if he was trying to plead the 5th, he continued the mantra about avoiding the past. HE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO PROPERLY PLEAD THE FIFTH. He never directly lied to congress but he refused to comment on anything and never officially pleaded the fifth. People have been subject to federal investigation for less. Now Palmeiro. Asked the same question, he blatantly LIED. He said “I have never used steroids. Period.” He pointed his finger right at congress and said it with stern authority….like a Dad. Guess what came out about Rafael just four and a half months later? He TOOK steroids!!! He was suspended for 10 games for it!!! HE LIED TO CONGRESS. Yet McGwire and Palmiero were left alone. Why? Because Mark McGwire was Big Mac. (congrats McDonald’s, I’m sure that was a big boon for you.) Rafael Palmeiro was Raffie. They were nice guys that everyone rooted for. McGwire was the guy Roger Maris’ family endorsed when he broke the home run record. Palmeiro was the lovable guy in the commercial, stricken with erectile dysfunction, then was saved by Viagra…Just like YOU, average American man!!!! They fit our image of America: Wonderbread, bald eagles, and Dad-like sluggers bashing home runs. Barry Bonds didn’t. Bonds fought the media. Bonds insulted people. He never acted like the hero he was supposed to be. Yet still, hypocrisy is hypocrisy.
The U.S. government and even the media let McGwire and Palmeiro slip through the cracks, then went full steam ahead against Bonds. Yes, Bonds had a connection to BALCO. Yes BALCO was involved in illegal operations. Yes Bonds is an asshole. But the evidence against Bonds is weak. The only person who could bring down Bonds, if he truly took steroids, is Greg Anderson and Greg Anderson will never testify. The trail is all a show. The main players in BALCO have already been taken down. Bonds, at worst, was a user who got his supply from them. Yet the U.S. Attorney’s office has made it their mission to tear him down, get him prison time, and drag him through the mud for a number of months. McGwire? Palmeiro? I guess they’re not even worth taking a look at.
If Barry Bonds lied when he was brought in to testify in 2003, did he really do anything more than Mark McGwire when he refused to say anything and Palmeiro when he blatantly lied? Maybe so. Maybe not. Either way, one thing is clear: None of these men warrants the kind of attack that has been aimed toward Bonds. The investigation into Bonds has already cost the U.S. Government 6 million dollars and the media thousands of wasted hours and pages. Millions of dollars that could be used to investigate a real crime. Hours and pages that could be used to enlighten us about a real story. Isn’t there a conflict in Libia? Isn’t this fucking March Madness!!!??? As the trial wears on, coverage will diminish and after it’s all over it will fade from the public consciousness even quicker. My feeling of disgust won’t diminish. My indignation toward the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not fade, not so long as it operates in such an immature and wasteful manner. I hate the battles we waste our time fighting in this country. 8 years in pursuit of Bonds. Millions of dollars. The Clemens trial looming on the horizon. It makes me sick.
Mr. Old Ben
Oh and P.S:
Good luck this year, coach McGwire! I hope you really develop some great hitters!
Less serious sports stuff to come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!