There is something about the fall of an institution or a person that is bigger than life that elicits such strong emotions. There is never any middle ground. It is always a reveling in an almost tyrannical vindictive showcase of fire and brimstone or an intense lament complete with blind nostalgic prose. If the documents released in the Barry Bonds perjury case are even slightly damning then I would be prepared to grab a pitchfork and join the other villagers in a mad riot on the way down to the steroid laced steel gate of his mansion.
I, as well as many others, simply never accepted that his hitting improved so much with age that after the age of 35 his home run totals increased exponentially. I did not buy his “injury” in 2005 that kept him off his feet and turned his muscle into fat. I do not accept a lot of what Bonds has said over the years as anything resembling truth. I doubt he had no idea his trainer was bulking him up with performance enhancing drugs (PED) and I blame him for betraying the spirit of the game.
I have equal doubt that Major League Baseball was truly trying to stop steroid use until 2005; the season after Bonds broke the noble Hank Aaron’s career home run record. Remember, home runs saved the league after the strike and to not carry through with a record breaking chase would have been a huge marketing let down.
Well, now, hopefully, the full truth will begin to be disclosed. ESPN, the New York Times, and the AP recently wrote that the defense was asking that the transcript of conversations between Bonds and his trainer, Greg Anderson, and former business partner Steve Hoskins and the retested results of a 2003 urine sample that showed he did have anabolic steroids in his system remained sealed. That request has been denied and they be released for the public and the media to scour for hints of proof of wrong doing.
I cannot make any declaration of guilt yet, only strong allegations, and I can only keep my trident ready for emergency rampaging by the front door.
I look back on this latest development and remember many of my, as well as many other sports fans, reactions to the downfalls of players and teams of such incredbile magnitude. Most recently I can remember the joy as the country joined the Red Sox Nation in their historic World Series victory in 2004. The real demon was vanquished in the American League Championship Series when the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 deficit to the vexing New York Yankees and won four straight games.
The World Series was a mere after thought after that series win. Boston Red Sox books were published in droves. I am pretty sure I could hear Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy from Page 2 on ESPN, crying in his column that next day. The New York Yankees evil empire was immediately pronounced dead, even though it is far too early to call a decade-long World Series drought the end for the 26-time champions.
Not every recent downfall has been cheered though. Back in the early ‘90s the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers finally fell apart after exciting the NBA during the ’80s. These were the last great teams to have such incredible depth that a new hero could be found every night.
The Celtics were more than just Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish. There was also Danny Ainge, Dennis Johnson, Cedric Maxwell, and many more forgotten stars. The Lakers had Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Mychel Thompson, Maurice Lucas, Byron Scott, and many more players that could start on just about any other team during Showtime’s reign.
When these teams fell back to Earth, basketball fans lamented the loss of great team basketball played by a collection of tremendous players on a deep roster. It is impossible to recreate such a team now because of free agency, a salary cap, and the expansion of the league dilutes talent and spreads it thinly over the 30-team field in an effort to sell more NBA tickets.
I had a similar reaction to the second retirement of Michael Jordan at the end of the Chicago Bulls second three-peat in 1998. I am simply amazed at the intensity of emotion the fall of legends can stir in me and in this immense nation of sports fans. While I doubt my recognition of my anger and my sorrow and its profound irrational manifestations will change my reaction to the news that will paint Bonds as a liar and a traitor to the great game of baseball, I will be sure to bring it up on the long road from Chicago to San Francisco to boo and scream obscenities at Barry Nonds as he leaves the courthouse defeated.