Thursday, March 09, 2006

Putting the “Hyper” in Hyperbole
By Ben Valentine

Author's note: My fellow blogger David wrote a very nice piece which he posted a little before this one, but you might miss since it's sandwhiched between my two obnoxiously long posts. I urge you to check it out.

By the time this Barry Bonds steroid thing is over, I should get a check from the guy for being his defense attorney. But sometimes things are just so ridiculous, you have to say something.

So try this one on for size: CBS Sportsline’s Scott Miller actually wrote a column comparing Bonds and this steroid scandal to Richard Nixon and Watergate.

HUH?

What ever Miller is smoking, can I hit that next because it’s got to be some really good stuff.

There comes a time when you’ve got to step back and take a look at the situation in all honesty. How the hell can anyone compare baseball, which in the grand stage of things, affects no one, to Watergate, something which nearly destroyed the credibility of the White House. Not that he’s paying attention but Scott: Baseball < US government.

We all love sports here at Sportszilla, but as a history major who is quite interested in politics, such talk just makes me sick. Watergate shook the foundations of government because it showed the group of men whom the American people put their faith in to PROTECT their rights, their freedoms and at times, their lives, were in fact crooks. They lied, they committed crimes, they were not trustworthy. Barry Bonds might have done all of those things, but last time I checked, he wasn’t in charge of signing legislation which can influence your life, enforcing the laws of the country oh and this is a big one… doesn’t have a vast array of NUCLEAR WEAPONS at his disposal!

If Barry Bonds is everything the book states, and lord knows it wouldn’t be a shock, who is losing sleep over this? Will China care? Think France will give a damn? I bet those kids in Iraq are just going to be so disillusioned that our athletes cheat, they just might lose faith in the democracy we’re trying to bring!

I’d be less upset if Miller had actually mentioned that while he thinks the comparison has some fair points, this is by no means anywhere near Watergate. But he doesn’t. So, ala the boys over at Fire Joe Morgan, I’m breaking down this column. My comments are clearly noted. You can read for yourself and decipher whether Miller was actually serious with this comparison:


This is baseball's Watergate. Barry Bonds as President Nixon. The shadows growing longer. The hounds gaining momentum. Twilight fast approaching.

The similarities are so very obvious.

Comment: Really? Please enlighten us Scottie.

It is the scandal of a generation. A two-, three-year investigation. The pieces flow steadily in drips and drabs. But they keep coming, chipping away at the outer layer, eventually revealing that what's behind the curtain is sleazy, fraudulent and repugnant.

Comment: As a person who loves to write long, winding, complex sounding sentences that say nothing half the time, I appreciate this. Long story short: Scottie says there’s something rotten in Denmark.

This is an abuse of trust, not power, but it stems from the same things. Vanity and greed. All scandals do. Hey, there aren't 25 or 30 deadly sins -- only seven. Follow the money ... or the greed ... or the pride. The trails sometimes have different starting points, but they always meet along the way and lead to the very same end.

Comment: First of all, Watergate WAS an abuse of trust and power. The President LIED to the American people. And while it may stem from the same things, the significance is not the same. My friend betraying my trust is not the same as a parent doing it. There’s a whole other dynamic at play here; importance and role of the person, which Scottie seems to be missing.

BALCO Barry owns vanity and greed like he owns the San Diego Padres' pitching staff.

Comment: Funny stuff! By the by, which sin is Jake Peavy?

Bonds says he "won't even look at" the bombshell book Game of Shadows -- due out later this month, excerpted in Sports Illustrated this week -- that painstakingly and exhaustively chronicles what Barry knew and when he knew it. Steroids, human growth hormone, insulin, pills, drops, topical ointments -- at this point, the most surprising thing is that Bonds doesn't have three heads.

Comment: What do you expect him to say? If it is all true, then he really doesn’t need to read about how it happened. After all, he was there. That’s like being shocked that Nixon wouldn’t listen to himself on the Watergate tapes… whoops, did I make your comparison for you Scottie?

But if this book is as airtight as it appears -- and there's every reason to believe it is -- Bonds is not going to be able to avoid it.

Comment: The book could be a bunch of lies, and Bonds still wouldn’t be able to avoid it. Bonds/steroids sells right now. Anyway, the revelation Bonds took steroids is about as shocking as learning the Earth revolves around the sun at this point.

Authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams portray him as a man poisoned by jealousy while watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa duel for the home run record in 1998, outraged by McGwire's outrageously big body. They document that the steroids started soon thereafter for Bonds, growing with increasing and alarming volume over the next five years.

Comment: You mean Barry wasn’t the only one popping pills? He’s just the jerk who got jealous huh? Anyway, nice description in this paragraph. Continue on Scottie.

Bonds, BALCO founder Victor Conte, personal trainer Greg Anderson ... they're Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman, Liddy. All of Barry's Men. The Congressional steroid hearings last March -- at which Bonds was notably absent and uninvited because of the BALCO investigation -- now so resemble a slice of the Congressional Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973.

Comment: How? I wasn’t alive in 1973, so please enlighten me Scottie. How were they different from normal congressional hearings, or the ones they had recently about 9/11, or a few years back with baseball’s anti trust legislation. I’m serious. Please fill me in!

We remain mostly in the dark regarding what McGwire and Sosa may or may not have taken because, so far, there is no evidence. No trail. No leaks.

Comment: Guess Scottie’s not going to bother to tell me. I’m disappointed. Oh and why have we forgiven big Mac and Sammy? There were leaks, but since they came from Jose Canseco’s mouth, no one really bothered to take them seriously. By the way, I forget, did anyone actually disprove those allegations?

Bonds? For him, the BALCO files now become Nixon's secret White House taping system. There're the smoking gun. Cold, hard evidence. Nixon's secret Oval Office conversations eventually came to light when the taping system was revealed. With Bonds, Fainaru-Wada and Williams have shined the light into the shadowy corner of his existence by obtaining BALCO folders and calendars with detailed notes tracking everything from Bonds' steroid and HGH schedules and quantities to his testosterone levels.

Maybe there is an 18-minute gap somewhere, maybe not. With or without that, the raw meat sought by the wolves is there. The United States attorney's office was involved with the BALCO investigation and still could investigate perjury for Bonds' denials before the BALCO grand jury last winter (essentially, a different riff on "I am not a crook.").

Comment: Ridiculous. Are you telling me this evidence wasn’t there before? You mean to tell me these reporters had all of this stuff, and didn’t turn it over to a grand jury? Because that’s about the only way the US attorney’s office would bother to suddenly investigate Bonds for perjury. This book shouldn’t be new evidence to the justice system, just new evidence for the court of public opinion. I ventured over to SI.com and looked. Guess what? Most of the info the feds already have. The key things like Bonds doping schedule and the like, the Grand Jury has seen. And wouldn’t Rafael Palmerio’s denial be more akin to the “I am not a crook” thing?

So now it's the San Francisco Chronicle as the Washington Post, two of its most dogged reporters as Woodward and Bernstein, locking in on the story until they packed enough damning evidence to fill an entire book, let alone two years' worth of newspaper pages.

Comment: Comparing sports reporters to guys who brought down a presidential administration. Bravo. And my journalism professor my junior year said going into sports instead of politics was a waste of time, HA! Shows what she knows! In any case Scottie, never mind that at the time the reporters were taking a fair share of risk investigating the US government, which could do all sorts of nasty things to them, and did do to many people it didn’t like during the 60’s and 70’s. What could Barry Bonds do exactly? Throw a brick at their front door? Break their windows with a baseball?

Again, if the charges in this book are as solid as they appear -- that Bonds has ingested just about everything except antifreeze and motor oil in his maniacal quest at home run records -- it isn't so much surprising as affirming. It affirms what so many have either suspected or dreaded in growing numbers for the past five, six years.

Comment: Reaffirmed. Pretty much everyone has assumed Bonds took steroids.

For a giant of a man, Bonds looks remarkably smaller with each new revelation. There is a trail of great or revered figures -- the two aren't necessarily interchangeable -- who have been undone by vanity and greed throughout history. Like Nixon, Bonds is fast reaching the point where there won't be many options left but exile.

Comment: Exile? Why because he’s facing impeachment and potential jail time if he doesn’t leave the game? Uh not quite Scottie. See while all of this is a very interesting read, basically it doesn’t do a lick of good because baseball can’t retroactively test his urine from 2002. So unless he flunks a drug test now, which is unlikely because the stuff he’s using is pretty much undetectable, he cannot be punished.

He will not go easily, because that is not his style. Always, he has thrived on the scorn and abuse others have sent his way, and even now, knowing his stubbornness and steely personality, there is no reason to expect that won't continue.

Comment: Again, why would he? There’s absolutely no reason to. Jason Giambi didn’t go away, and they had him on tape admitting he cheated. By the way baseball no doubt heard those tapes. Did they suspend Giambi retroactively? Were the Yankees able to void his contract? Nope. Not at all. So tell me, what does Barry have to worry about outside of public scrutiny, which he’s got anyway?

If anyone is expecting even this to push him toward a revealing confession of high crimes and misdemeanors, they're wasting their time. Barry Bonds cares far more about Barry Bonds than he does about the good of the game.

Comment: Oh and doing so would potentially give him jail time and cost him millions of dollars. Tell me Scottie, if it were you, would you confess for the good of the game?

Like Nixon at the peak of Watergate, Bonds behaves as if he's above the law. He simply adds names to his Enemies List and sneers toward another day.

Comment: Except unlike Nixon, Bonds can’t do anything about the people on his enemies list. Scottie repeat after me, Barry Bonds, baseball player. Richard Nixon, at the time, one of the most powerful men in the world. There is a difference.

Now, the conclusion needs to be the same. Like Nixon, Bonds needs to climb aboard that helicopter, flash a peace sign -- or another hand gesture sign, his choice, if he'll just go -- and disappear from the public eye.

Comment: I’m in no rush for Barry to go. I still enjoy watching him play and what he does off the field has little effect on me. Especially since a bunch of other guys are probably doing it too. Oh and Nixon will be back in the year 3000 to reign over Earth. (Futurama reference for those not in the know)

He is an embarrassment. He is a detriment to the game.

Comment: Embarrassment? Maybe. A detriment to the game? Check out the attendances of ballparks when Bonds is playing on the road. I bet all of those National League owners are just crying how their .500 team could be drawing so much more than 45,000 a game whenever Bonds shows up. I mean they’d probably sell out if it were just the wholesome, honest Giants like Steve Finley, Pedro Felix and Omar Vizquel! I know I’d kick my own mother to the curb to see that team in action!

And ultimately, if he continues down this greed-infested, vanity-covered path, the only thing that will save him is a pardon.

Particularly if the U.S. Attorney General's Office stays involved.

Comment: Maybe they will because the government loves to waste time investigating trivial stuff instead of fixing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan along with getting Katrina victims back into their homes. On the other hand, while the government loves to waste time with baseball, nothing ever comes of it either. So don’t hold your breath. I mean not to beat a dead horse, but didn’t we see the same things with Giambi last year?

By the way, for all the talk about comparing Nixon and Bonds, Miller didn’t really do it at all. He took some general points about lying and investigative reporting and suddenly we have Watergate II: Sports Reporters Strike Back! You could probably write the same column with any political scandal out there. Bush lied about WMD? Hey Bonds lied about HGH! They both lied about things that can be shortened to three letter abbreviations! Oh, except one cost people their lives and another is just something for people to talk about.

There are ways to attack Barry Bonds. Doing it this way is an insult to my and the reader’s intelligence, the hard work of Woodward and Bernstein, along with history in general. Please Scottie, don’t do it again.

As a side note, for a much better summation of the Bonds thing, check out Ray Ratto's column on Sportsline. It's got humor and is pretty much on point. I found it to be a much better read than Miller's venture into the extreme realms of hyperbole.

3 Comments:

Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

The funniest part of Miller's column was me checking his bio afterwards and finding out he was 10 during the Watergate scandal...which I'm sure he remembers perfectly...

12:28 PM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

C'mon, Zach, I remember perfectly how Bill Clinton bitch-slapped Old Man Bush in the first Presidential Debate in '92.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

The funniest part of the column for me was realizing he was actually serious. I kept waiting for something to indicate he was doing it tongue and cheek. Oh that and him saying he wants Bonds to go away. If Bonds retired tomorrow, sportswriters would be pissed they had nothing to write about. They'd probably call him a quitter and say the new steroid legislation forced him out...

And I'll say it again. While we originally made fun of the guy, Tony Mejia is the best columnist on Sportsline. And he does two sports, NBA and NCAA. Not bad.

4:31 PM  

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