Season of Scandals
4. The Syringe Is Mightier Than the Surge
"You've always been a great hitter and you broke a great record." --President Bush to Barry Bonds in a phone call on August 7, 2007
The President's congratulatory call was, I suspect, one of relief. I recognized the feeling; the days leading up to Barry breaking Hank Aaron's career record of 756 home-runs felt like those leading up to Y2K when all the computers in the world were supposed to crash. With one stroke, the world as we knew it would end.
Hating Barry was too easy. His excellent biographer, Jeff Pearlman, has labeled him "a truly evil man." A normally solid, thoughtful columnist for ESPN.com, Jemele Hill, actually called on God to "smite" Bonds before he could break the record.
The journalists who have driven the Bonds's story, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle now write that, rather than "poised to emerge from its steroid crisis...[baseball] appears headed deeper into the drug abyss."
They foresee more reports and revelations on performance-enhancing drug use, notably of HGH by high-profile players and a continuing steroid investigation marked by revelations from Kirk Radomski, an admitted steroids dealer and former New York Mets batboy. Kirk has a little list, so far sealed, of some two dozen names.
Charles Yesalis, professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University and a recognized steroids expert, told the Chronicle reporters, "Fans who believe baseball has cleaned up the game with its toughened drug-testing program are exhibiting 'a childlike naïveté.' "
Baseball doesn't even test for human growth hormone and, according to Yesalis, players who want to cheat are certain to discover that, "with growth hormone and low doses of [the steroid] testosterone that can't even be detected on the tests, you are good to go."
And we're good to go, too. Everything should be asterisked (not just the record-breaking home-run ball itself, marked by the fashion designer who paid $752,467 for it and has reaped millions in publicity from it). Nothing is pure. Why bother? Have another Bud.
Meanwhile, having used him to help build their new ballpark and fill its seats, the Giants recently fired Bonds, which probably makes him more vulnerable to his legal pursuers. Did he lie to a grand jury in 2003 when he said he never used steroids? His friend and trainer, Greg Anderson, is still in jail for refusing to rat Bonds out.
But it doesn't matter anymore; the case against Michael Vick was strong enough to make him the new designated demon du jour, the Saddam to Bonds's Osama. And just like Saddam, Vick had a posse to disarm and land to invade. Less than a week after Bonds broke the home-run record and four days before Michael Vick's pals rolled on him as a killer of dogs, Karl Rove quit the White House to "start thinking about the next chapter." We were suitably distracted.