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His fight is just beginning

Bonds' hubris puts him in his biggest pickle yet

Posted: Friday November 16, 2007 12:02PM; Updated: Friday November 16, 2007 2:47PM
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Barry Bonds has been dealing with angry fans for years. Federal prosecutors will not be so easy to dismiss.
Barry Bonds has been dealing with angry fans for years. Federal prosecutors will not be so easy to dismiss.
Bonds Indicted
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The day may come that the bars of a prison cell clank shut behind him, and you wonder if, even then, Barry Bonds will admit to the terrible mistake that changed his life. It isn't the error of using performance-enhancing drugs that will have finally done him in, but the fateful miscalculation of lying to the federal government about it.

That's what Bonds now stands accused of doing, indicted on four counts of perjury and one count of obstructing justice for having denied to a grand jury four years ago that he intentionally used steroids. (Granted, an indictment is not a conviction, but if you truly believe Bonds is innocent of using PEDs and then being less than truthful about it, you may be more comfortable in another area of this Web site -- the one labeled Fantasy.)

Bonds is where he is today -- facing the possibility of prison time and probability that his career is over -- not so much because of his dishonesty but because of his hubris. He was arrogant enough to believe he could treat the feds the way he treated the media, the fans and even the commissioner, by essentially waving his hand dismissively and telling them to get lost. But the federal authorities aren't like some obscure middle reliever, overmatched and intimidated by the great Bonds. They have an awfully good record in going up against sports figures, as Michael Vick, Pete Rose, Jamal Lewis and Darryl Strawberry, to name a few who have fought them and lost, could have told him.

Think of how differently Bonds could have played his cards. A shrewder man might have, if not come clean before the grand jury, at least asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Had Bonds taken the Fifth, he might have faced some token punishment from baseball commissioner Bud Selig, perhaps a brief suspension, that would have long since been over by now. He probably still would have broken the home run record, it's unlikely he would have been facing any legal charges, and he might even still be a San Francisco Giant, which seems to be his fondest wish. Instead, he's unemployed and likely to stay that way, so untouchable now as a free agent that he might as well be radioactive. All because he thought he was untouchable in a different way, immune to the reach of law enforcement.

Maybe his chemically-enhanced muscle fooled Bonds himself even more than the rest of us. Perhaps the nearly superhuman feats he pulled off in the batter's box made him feel he really could do things mere mortals could not, including stare down the judicial system and make a federal investigation go away. Or maybe other factors convinced him of his invincibility. When a friend like Greg Anderson sits in jail rather than incriminate him, when thousands of Giants fans ignore all the evidence of his steroid use and treat him like a hero, it's no wonder Bonds felt he could get away with anything, including treating federal investigators like a bunch of boobs. He made himself a target the day he denied everything under oath, essentially daring the feds to catch him in a lie, and apparently to his surprise, they took him up on it.

Suddenly the rest of it all seems so trivial -- the issue of the asterisk, his Hall of Fame candidacy, the chances of his finding a new team. Soon, when he's fully embroiled in the legal proceedings that seem sure to come, when he's trying to avoid trading in his baseball uniform for a prison jumpsuit, Bonds may look back on all the booing, all the debates about his rightful place in baseball history and see them as the good old days. If he thinks the fans on the road were tough on him, wait until he goes a few more rounds with federal prosecutors.

It's about to get uglier for Bonds, and you wonder if he realizes that, if he understands he is playing a whole new ball game, with much higher stakes. Chances are, he's confident he'll win this one, too. Bonds may be investigated, prosecuted, convicted and even incarcerated, but you are kidding yourself if you think he will ever be humbled.