Posted: Friday April 14, 2006 12:21PM; Updated: Friday April 14, 2006 12:56PM
The Barry Bonds section
Barry Bonds could be facing perjury charges from a federal grand jury.
John W. McDonough/SI
How do you think the BALCO hearings, which included equal parts baseball and football players, turned into the exclusive property of MLB? (I've heard the argument about records, which I don't really buy. Baseball numbers before 1947 are extremely tainted.) It seems to me that bodies in the NFL have transformed over the last 20 or 30 years. What is going on with what seems to be unbalanced reporting? -- Tony Muetz, Martinez, Calif.
A valid point, Tony. Other than getting dragged in front of Congress a couple of times, the NFL has had it easy in this steroids scandal. I see a few reasons for that. First, the NFL has had a fairly strict drug policy in effect for years (just ask Ricky Williams). This isn't to say that the NFL hasn't had issues with performance-enhancing drugs. It has. But that league simply hasn't been the problem child that Major League Baseball has been as far as dealing with steroids and the like.
I also think people expect NFL players, as a group, to be larger and stronger than their baseball counterparts, so in the court of public opinion, at least, it's not that big a deal if NFL players bulk up. But obviously, with the adverse health effects of steroids, it should be a big deal.
Some baseball people will argue that the place of their game in the national culture has something to do with MLB taking most of the heat, too, and I think there's something to that. Football is, unquestionably, America's most popular sport. But baseball is ingrained like no other.
Still, let's not fool each other. The main reason BALCO has been more about baseball than football is simple: Barry Bonds. He's the biggest name in this thing.
From last week's mailbag Ian wrote, "It's too late to blame the players just because a proud black man is going to pass Ruth." I think there is plenty of blame to go around for players, owners and the media. But I find it disingenuous that Bonds' supporters bring up race in his defense. Undoubtedly, Ruth is beloved by many fans and his falling a place may be upsetting (especially for a minority of racist fans). However, last I checked, Hank Aaron held the home run record, not Ruth. I am not upset that Bonds has the potential to become the home run leader because he is a proud black man (although arrogant and stubborn may be a more apt description). I am upset because players from past eras (especially Aaron, who played nobly under difficult conditions) might be supplanted by someone who cheated and took the easy road to success. -- Bill, Austin
Agreed, Bill. Wonderfully said.
As a child I used to be a big professional wrestling fan. Unfortunately, many of my childhood heroes died before age 50 because of steroids. So before we crucify Barry Bonds and before we put asterisks beside the names of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, we must remember that they may pay with their lives for what they have done. I say that we should let them have their records. The numbers that they should be concerned about are the ones associated with their birth dates. -- Karolina Hymns, Woodbridge, Va.
Bonds on Bonds ... if this series doesn't cause any self-respecting baseball fan to want to turn off the TV for the entire season and switch to radio, I don't know what would. -- Marcus Cassar, Chicago
I saw the second episode the other night, Marcus -- hey, it's my job -- and it sure seemed like I'd heard it all before.
I've said this to just about every sports writer and no one acknowledges it. Babe Ruth. Ty Cobb. Joe DiMaggio. Mickey Mantle. They would all have done whatever it took to win -- and that includes taking steroids. Bonds may not be a desirable human being -- most great people are not as nice as people think anyway. But will everyone get over the steroids thing already? -- Chet, Grand Rapids
Heard that before, too, Chet. Don't agree with your side.
I remember a talk with a former big league player I had last year. This player -- he had a long career that ended in the '80s -- had an opportunity to take steroids but, after some soul-searching, simply couldn't do it. He was unsure of the health consequences. He was uncomfortable with the idea that he might gain an unfair advantage. So he simply said no.
Was this particular guy a great player? No. But many great players, past and future Hall of Famers, simply have decided not to use steroids. That should be recognized as the right way to win.
You know, I believe Bonds when he says all he wants to do is play ball. And the sorry shame is, that's all anyone ever wanted him to do. And he was damn good at it. But then, if you believe the book (which most of us do), he let jealousy get in the way of his already amazing career. And that's where it all went down the toilet. I wish that he had never touched the stuff. And you know what? I believe that at this point he wishes the same thing. -- Ralph Petro, Brooklyn