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What Do We Do Now?
Gary Smith
March 28, 2005
I was there, that June at Wrigley, when the fever caught Sammy. See, that's me and the three kids in the bleachers that weekend he rocked five out of the cathedral and the great home run chase was on.
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March 28, 2005

What Do We Do Now?

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I CALL HANK AARON'S son. Patience, he counsels. Calm yourself down. The truth will come out because the truth works the way his daddy did in his assault on the Babe. Slowly. Quietly. Relentlessly.

"In life," says Hank Jr., who's in charge of detailing cars at Hank Sr.'s Toyota dealership in Atlanta, "whatever you do wrong, it'll come back to you. I don't know if Bonds is guilty. He's a herculean man if he put all that muscle mass on and stayed that limber. Eventually, we'll tell by his body. Eventually it eats away your tissue."

He saw it happen to teammates who used steroids when he played tight end at the University of Tennessee--Martin from 1979 to '81. "They got crazy," he says. "Their bodies fell apart. Their knees--they can't even walk now."

Will he be there when his father's name, and his, too, vanishes from the top of baseball's most hallowed list? "I won't. Not because of steroids. I just have no desire to be there. I'll watch it on TV. And I'll feel nothing. I'm proud of that record, but I'm prouder that my father's a good man."

And his dad? Will he stay away, as he indicated to the Los Angeles Times two months ago? Will he be able to resist when Selig, his friend since their days together in Milwaukee in the '50s, urges him to accompany him so that TV and Bud and baseball can make the night as much, or maybe even more, about Hank than about Barry, so they can have a noble cover for the celebration of an embarrassment? Does he realize that he can make the largest contribution of his storied life to the game he loves by refusing those entreaties, by leaving baseball alone to face itself that day ... by simply remaining invisible?

His son can't answer that. Hank Sr. declines my e-mail request through his lawyer to come to the phone. That's it, Henry. Invisible.

MAYBE IT'S not fair, what I do next. After all, baseball's just now picking itself off the floor of the Rayburn building and staggering down Constitution Avenue after the billy-clubbing it took from a couple of dozen congressmen last week. But somebody has to pick it up, grab it by the lapels and get it ready for what's coming next.

I call a futurist. I ask him what a baseball player will look like in 30 years, using the advances that science appears poised to make. For starters, he'll have zoom vision, says Jerome Glenn, director of the Millennium Project, the American Council for the United Nations University's global think tank. Microscopic devices in the eye, possibly activated by voice command, will contract ocular muscles and change the shape of the eye in order to alter focal capacity.

Artificial muscles will complement the player's natural ones. Start-up companies are already working on them, using electroactive polymers. Nanobots, molecular chips that behave like red blood cells, will provide food and oxygen more efficiently to the cells and be programmed to travel through the bloodstream to the brain to stimulate the production of chemicals that speed up neural response. Nanobots will monitor the player's internal responses and flash them onto a lens on his eye, providing biofeedback so he can self-correct almost instantly.

He'll be genetically engineered, of course. Gene combinations will be customized just for him and introduced into his body as part of a harmless virus that will act as a carrier. This will alter him at his most fundamental level--his DNA--stimulating the production of chemicals that affect, on a cellular level, the size of his muscles, his strength and quickness and even psychological traits. That could easily happen in the next 10 years and be holy hell to detect. Scientists are already receiving calls from athletes and their representatives asking if gene doping is ready yet, says Dr. Theodore Friedmann, director of UC San Diego's Program in Human Gene Therapy.

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