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A few months ago, I wrote an open letter to Barry Bonds congratulating him on hitting his 700th home run while noting that many people didn't trust him and that I just didn't like him. In response, I got a ton of e-mail from you guys.
The most interesting letter came from a physician whose name I'll keep secret. He sent along this story: "I went to the All-Star Game in Baltimore and happened to bump into Bonds. We were in a corridor of the hotel where he was staying and it was just him and I. I asked politely if he would sign my baseball and he said he was on his way to breakfast and that I could catch up with him later. I was stunned! Catch up with you where? Years later, I was at an All-Star Game and worked with the medical team so I hung around the rehab room next to the locker room. All the All-Stars were in there hiding from the media. Everyone was real nice about signing autographs and then Bonds came in. I went over to him and told him my story and that I finally caught up with him. He looked around and said, 'I'm going to BP, I'll catch ya later,' and started to leave! Then Jim Edmonds and a few others shamed him into signing. I don't get it. Somehow his greatness will always have a little tarnish on it due to the way he treated people along the way."
Even while I acknowledge that this story could be completely fabricated, I agree with you, Doc. And though our experiences in no way reflect on Bonds' ability to play baseball, they shed some light on the man behind the stats.
At the same time, Barry has millions of fans. A reader named Chris from San Diego wrote: "I think the media has jumped on this following the Jose Canseco expose, and is pushing it so that everyone is force-fed this to believe the spin. If we do that, then this turns into a witch-hunt for players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. Where is the evidence -- the smoking gun? There is none."
Well, there is now. Between Victor Conte's weeklong feel-good media blitz and the leaked grand jury testimony, now there's enough smoke around this issue to set off alarms from coast to coast.
Barry says he didn't know he was taking undetectable steroids. In the San Francisco Chroniclestory that broke the scandal, Bonds told the grand jury that he knew he was taking "multivitamin to vitamin E to omega 3s to, you know, ZMA -- the ZMA that BALCO had -- to liver pills to oxygen ..." This is stuff that Ken Jennings probably can't even identify. Bonds could keep up with that. But when he started taking "the cream" and "the clear," two specially designed substances, he was told they were flaxseed oil and he says he never questioned that any further. "Whatever," he said.
I was going to try and write a funny column this week admitting that I'd used steroids to help my writing, but the more I thought about the whole situation, the sadder the whole thing seemed. The other night on ESPN, Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian said that even if Bonds admits that he used steroids, they'd vote him into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, because of the numbers he posted over the first decade of his career, before BALCO even existed.
I respect the ESPN guys, but to me, regardless of how or when it happened, if you break the rules that govern the sport that you play, you're not only a bad sport, you're a cheater. And you belong in the Hall of Shame.
But maybe that's just me.
Bud Selig, what do you think?
Something I Learned This Week In An NBA Locker Room
A marginal player on an Eastern Conference team was talking about his hopes to stick in the NBA this season, fully aware that NBA contracts become guaranteed for the entire season on Jan. 10, and knowing he may not make it. "I just hope I can hang on," he said, "and then I'll get my life together. You know, get a house, a home phone number, an iPod."
Game Of The Week
One of my fellow NBA journalists thanked me this week for linking to a game in each column. "I always intend to just check it out, but then I spend about 20 minutes playing the stupid thing." As you will this week. Even with its holiday theme, Pandaf Golf is still addictive.
With so many corporate holiday parties coming up, there may be a need for entertainment. This one-man band from the future is your answer. For some reason, I thought he might be Canadian even before I read his press section.
Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.slamonline.com/index.html. He aged an entire decade while watching the epic Bengals/Dolphins match-up on Sunday night.