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Barry Bonds Trial: You Can’t Handle the Truth!

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I love that line delivered by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. It’s one of those iconic kinds of cinematic dialogue. We can argue about other ones that are better: “Here’s Johnny!” uttered by Nicholson (again) in The Shining. “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” spoken by Marlon Brando in The Godfather, and perhaps the most often imitated line of all: Robert DeNiro’s infamous “You tawkin’ to me?” from Taxi Driver. Still, since this article is about the trial of Barry Bonds, Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” seems to apply best to the situation.

Barry BondsThe sad part is that this trial is not about Barry Bonds. Yes, you read that correctly. This trial is more about Major League Baseball, specifically how baseball (meaning owners and league officials) has turned a blind eye to the problem of PED (performance enhancing drugs) for years. This is the “truth” that is going to be hard for many to handle. The even more difficult truth is that fans were in on the whole thing and are just as culpable—maybe even more so—than the suits and the players who took the drugs.

You can’t tell me that when we saw Mark McGwire hitting all those home runs, his arms bulging bigger than Popeye’s after a can of spinach, that we didn’t suspect something was amiss. Yeah, sure, he hit the weight room everyday. Of course, he ate an all protein diet and drank body builder shakes. Yes, of course, and if you believe that I have a section of grass in Central Park with your name on it.

We were all complicit in this mess. Remember the McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run race? It seems like ages ago, but I recall it vividly. I remember that teachers put up posters of these guys in their classrooms. They were supposed to be involved in the all-American game, two heroes slugging it out to reach the top. Who couldn’t love that? Baseball certainly loved it—loved the packed stadiums, the resurgence of interest in a sport that had waned since the baseball strike of 1994-1995 that left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths.

Sure, we were all in on it and we loved every minute of it. Oh, the drama of it all! Besides, what do baseball fans love more than power? The home run is all about myth and about the shock and awe of the crowd. I remember seeing Tommy Agee of the Mets hit a monster at old Shea. I was just a kid, but I never forgot that one. It is the stuff of legend. The problem with home runs in the Steroid Era (the time after the baseball strike) is that we must question their validity. How many guys who hit 40+ homers did it the old fashioned way?

We can argue that substance abuse (or use of substances) has always dominated the game. Babe Ruth drank gallons of beer (and anything else in liquid form); many others were right up there with him. We have heard stories of pitchers throwing no-hitters while they were on acid or smoking pot, and tobacco in all its forms has always haunted MLB. Many of the members of the Hall of Fame were no doubt addicted to alcohol, tobacco, and who knows what else.

So the inconvenient truth here—besides the fact that Bonds has yet to be proven guilty of anything—is that if MLB is not on trial, how fair is this whole thing and what is the point? Why single out Bonds (or Roger Clemens later this year)? They have records in the books alongside other guys who may or may not have enhanced themselves too. Another truth is we will never be completely sure whose records are tarnished and whose are not. At this point no one is going to do anything about it either.

The people are the ones who pay to see games, who buy the merchandise, and keep this game (and all sports) successful. It has been more than obvious that fans do not care about the juice that players used; they care more about the effects of that substance. Baseball fans have a love affair with the game, but most especially with the home run. The homer is the Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise of baseball. It’s the white knight. People don’t go to see no hitters; they want a home run derby. That’s why that homer contest the night before the All Star game is actually bigger than the game that follows it.

By no means am I advocating substance use or abuse. I wish players only used their natural talent and skills on the field, but I also wish all politicians could be trusted. Probably not something to expect in my lifetime or yours. In the meantime, Barry Bonds is on trial for perjury, but if he is guilty so is MLB, the owners, and fans of the game, and that is an inconvenient truth that no one wants to handle.

Photo Credit: AP

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/charlie-doherty charlie doherty

    The whole reason Bonds is on trial is because of the BALCO case and Bonds saying he didn’t do PEDS under oath.

    The inconvenient truth for the plaintiffs in this case is that without Greg Anderson cooperating with the info he has on Bonds, there will be no shot of him being found guilty. Therefore, it’s just a waste of time.

    At least with Roger Clemens, there’s a real shot at the government proving he lied to Congress, given the evidence his former trainer Brian McNamee has.

  • christoracle

    culpable and complicity are what they are, responsible for blame, for the addictive drive to find fault, to feel a sense of acheivment accomplishment, to feel smart. we decode the mystery to find out who it was instead of why it was and how and when we plan to fix it. the common ground right and wrong share is interest, and there’s neither right or wrong if im interested in learning about. we all go through life together finding out new things as we go, we dont want anything more than the other guy and thats to win… giving our best effort means to cheat sometimes, finding out who cheated in order to place a degree on how despicable is just another clear confession of how guilty we feel for our insecurity, knocking down others in order to feel good about ourselves.

  • http://carolinegerardo.com/ Caroline Gerardo

    In ten years we will discover PEDS cause horrible brain cancer. We will have teary eyes.
    Children feel it necessary to order human growth hormone to achieve a sports level that is based on lies. Our culture is responsible. The game won’t be as thrilling, but I am for blood tests before you go on the field. The grass will be green in Central Park without fertilizer, chemical enhancements and crack.