Commentary: Barry Bonds’ Last Fight

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds arrives at federal court for a sentencing hearing on December 16, 2011 in San Francisco, California.   Bonds is appearing at a sentencing hearing after a jury found him guilty on one count of obstruction of justice and was a hung jury on three counts of perjury for lying to a grand jury about his use of performance enhancing drugs.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Commentary: Barry Bonds’ Last Fight

Appeals court ruling seems to have taken fight out of Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s home run champ.

Published September 19, 2013

I didn’t expect Barry Bonds to find justice in a U.S. courtroom, but I did hold out hope that the witch-hunt he faced would be revealed for what it was in a federal appeals court.

I was wrong.

Last Friday, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a lower court, which found Bonds guilty of hindering an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs among elite athletes.

Don’t get things bent; I never doubted Bonds used steroids or some other performance-enhancing drug (PED). For me, a look at how he transformed his body was evidence enough.

Yet what was the man’s real crime? Did Bonds bring down an investment house or create recession? Did he strip fertile land barren? Did he pollute a freshwater lake? Did he dip his hands too deeply into the public till? Did he kidnap, maim or murder anybody?

Barry Bonds did none of these. His crime was wanting to be the greatest, and he was willing to do whatever it took to achieve greatness.

Perhaps his use of PEDs did benefit his quest. PEDs aren’t a miracle concoction alone, though. For them to work, an athlete has to do more than pop pills or stick a syringe in his butt. His use of PEDs complement what an athlete does in the gym, but they have never been a replacement for lifting weights and going through other fitness regimes.

Understand one thing: I’m no apologist for Bonds. For most of the past dozen years, I detested what he stood for. But what I hate more was the dogged effort to disgrace him on the part of Major League Baseball, Congress, the media and fickle fans who worshiped his home runs even as they denounced what PEDs were doing to their game.

Their game? Baseball is no more their game than NBA, NFL or Major League Soccer is someone’s game. Baseball is a business, and who would stop an attorney or an accountant for trying to get an edge?

Now, years after he broke the home run record, Bonds is a pariah the face of an era baseball fans and Commissioner Bud Selig want to forget. They can only forget by vilifying him, much as they have done with Pete Rose for gambling and Roger Clemens for his alleged use of PEDs.

With the court’s ruling, “The Great Narcissist,” as writer David Halberstam once called Bonds, has relented. He’s reportedly told his attorneys he’ll serve his 30 days of house arrest and his two years of probation. He has said he intends to look further into his legal issue. But what good will that do?

Bonds will never clear his name. Too many people with power and money won’t let him. They have poured millions into finding him guilty of an offense so minor he won’t spend a day behind bars. That alone should tell you what a sham the entire multimillion-dollar investigation was.

Somewhere out there Bonds might find justice, perhaps in some third world dictatorship. He won’t find it here and he can’t find it in the public-built arenas where love of sport trumps love of liberty and freedom.

I wish none of this PED business had happened. It did, though. I wish the talk about it would go away; it won’t not in the near-term. But maybe the conversation about Bonds and his legal problems will go away eventually, vanishing into the silence that has followed Rose.

For we have nothing more to say about Bonds and PEDs that this latest court ruling didn’t say.  

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill


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