Game of Shadows: The Aftermath (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2007 12:09PM; Updated: Tuesday February 27, 2007 6:17PM
In a mournful editorial, the New York Times called the story of Bonds and steroids as reflected in Game of Shadows "A Baseball Tragedy."
Of course the book also made Bonds and baseball subject to ridicule. The Giants slugger and his sport were mocked and parodied on David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, in the Onion, in Mad Magazine, in countless editorial page cartoons, and even on the cover of the New Yorker.
Corporate sponsors shared the fans' disaffection with Bonds. Both Home Depot and Bank of America declined to participate in a proposed advertising campaign that the Giants had hoped to build around Bonds' assault on Ruth's mark. "A company like ours is always going to choose the untainted opportunity," a Bank of America spokesman said. Steering clear of Bonds made good business sense, according to a consumer poll taken by a Dallas marketing agency. Davie-Brown Talent found that of 1,500 celebrities who might be hired to endorse products, consumers rated Bonds no. 1,486 in likability and no. 1,488 in trustworthiness.
Nothing about the way the 2006 baseball season got underway was amusing to Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig was said to be so angry at Bonds that he wanted to suspend the Giants star solely on basis of the revelations in Game of Shadows. The commissioner's lieutenants convinced him such a move faced legal challenges. Selig's concern over Bonds's use of performance-enhancing drugs was eclipsed by a sense of personal betrayal: twice the commissioner had confronted the ballplayer in the midst of the BALCO scandal, offering him the chance to come clean. Instead, Bonds had told Selig he had nothing to worry about.
Now Selig faced the prospect of another season of scandal, with Bonds making his run past Ruth and then on to Aaron, who was the commissioner's close, personal friend. That would not do. One week after Game of Shadows hit bookstores, Selig announced he had appointed former Senator George Mitchell to oversee a probe into steroids in baseball.
On the field Bonds reacted stoically to the harsh treatment from opposing fans. When he tried to counter the barrage of negative publicity set off by Game of Shadows, his moves backfired. On March 23, Bonds sued both Gotham Books, the book's publisher, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Bonds didn't sue for libel, and he didn't contend that the reports of his drug use were false. Instead, he claimed that the publication of Game of Shadows had been an illegal "unfair business practice" because the authors had used secret grand jury material in writing their book.
Legal experts scoffed at the lawsuit. On his MSNBC show, Keith Olbermann wondered whether Bonds' filing didn't make him look "more guilty."
A San Francisco judge refused to issue the restraining order Bonds had sought to stop distribution of the book, and he warned Bonds that his lawsuit had little chance of success. Facing a countersuit from the Chronicle, Bonds dropped the complaint.
In another attempt to revamp his image, Bonds teamed up with ESPN for the quasi-reality show Bonds on Bonds. It was nearly as short-lived as the lawsuit. The program tried to portray Bonds in sympathetic terms, showing him hanging out with his daughter, visiting his father's grave, and weeping as he discussed unspecified pressures in his life. Steroids were not directly addressed.
The series was another subject of mockery: the San Jose Mercury began publishing a weekly column, "Bonds on Bonds: We Watch...So You Don't Have To," that poked fun at the previous night's episode. The reviews were awful, the ratings worse, and ultimately the show faded away with no notice.
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