Jul 20, 2007

Bonds vs. Vick

What I hope happens during the Michael Vick case, and impending legal trial he faces for illegal dog fighting (beyond justice being served of course), is that sports fans in America, casual or fanatical, and our government begin to see the distinct delineation between someone like Barry Bonds and Michale Vick.

Both are polarizing figures, both are incredible athletes, both are rich beyond most of our wildest dreams, both are black, one will certainly be indited within the month, and the other may follow close behind. But why, are their actions truly so similar in the legal eye as well?

Bonds for years has been vilified for being a "bad guy" a "bad teammate" a "cheater", none of which I'm telling you isn't true. But, lets take a closer look. Barry is mean to members of the media, often disregards the attention of adoring fans, and is possibly going to break the most cherished record in American sports by virtue of performance enhancing drugs. None of these things I would want on my resume, but they are incidences we can all relate to, perhaps have even been involved with in some way, or are guilty of on some level. Rudeness, treating others with a lack of respect, cheating on loved ones, in school, or at work. All are very common, and are relatively petty bones to pick at.

I hope a minute number of us can relate to the alleged actions of Vick. The disgusting, inhumane, barbaric, nauseating acts Vick is being accused of should help remind us all of the true reason Barry Bonds is national whipping boy; it is a vendetta being carried out by the executive branch of the federal government.

Most of us remember the State of the Union where President Bush made steroids in sports a national issue, and one that required immediate federal attention. This of course makes sense considering at the time we had already found Osama Bin Laden, brought justice and vengeance to the terrorists behind 9-11, rebuilt the middle east in the mold of a true democracy, fixed our nation's widespread voting problems, started a socialized health care system, improved our schools, and found renewable, alternative, and clean forms of energy, just to name a few.

What the Bonds investigation boils down to is that in December of 2003, a man potentially lied in front of a grand jury (again not a resume builder) about what he put in HIS body. The most prolific steroid trafficker and dealer known on the planet, Victor Conte, the Owner of BALCO Labs, has already served his time behind bars for his involvement in the case, a whopping four months. And to further diminish the current largeness of the effect of steroids, countless Major League Baseball Players have fallen off the face of the earth since testing went into place.

What we should expect from our leaders, who also took an oath to tell the truth, is leadership, not finger pointing. Bush, before being Governor of Texas, was the owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and authorized a trade for Jose Canseco. Yes, Canseco who proudly claims to have introduced steroids into baseball.

It is time to put our energy, resources, focus on other matters of national interest. The current grand jury was scheduled to be finished yesterday, July 19, 2007. They should not be retained for another six month period. Instead, let us concentrate on bringing the true "bad guys" to justice.

6 comments:

The Ghost of Drew Bledsoe said...

Perhaps the subtitle for this post should be "Disappointment vs. Atrocity". And yes, certainly the two are not comparable. However, one is about the game, the team, and the individual while the other is only about one man.

Thank goodness, football is not about dogfighting.

Sadly, we are deep into an era that IS about steroids in baseball.

Barry Bonds is merely the lightning rod. Is it because of a federal conspiracy theory? I doubt it. It is because the game that I first fell in love with in 1982 as I gazed into the eyes of Rollie Fingers on his Fleer trading card has changed. The stolen base was replaced with the homerun and became a marketing tool for baseball. So many players took steroids. McGwire openly took andro in his pursuit of breaking Roger Maris' single season record. And it was Jose Canseco that fessed up nearly the day he retired from the field.

So the issue of steroids is not about any one individual, but the game itself.

Football, on the other hand, is thriving. It has replaced baseball as America's game and there is no sport that stresses team play more. Individuals have acted innapropriately (Pacman Jones) but the league is making an effort to clean up "Bad Behavior". It is important to note that these issues occurred in their PRIVATE lives and yet still the league acted accountable for their employees behavior and responded appropriately. I hope that the same is done for Michael Vick but unfortunately that might not happen.

Baseball has rewarded those who juice and has reaped the rewards itself. The Cubs did (revenue from Sosa). The Cardinals did (revenue from McGwire). The Giants do (revenue from Bonds). The revenue has come at the expense of the team, the intelligence of the fans, winning, the integrity of Major League Baseball, and its status as the National Pastime. Why is it important to win when you can fill the stadium based on marketing a few marque big name veterans?

One an attrocity. The other a dissappointment.

The ultimate dissapointment is when individuals are literally rewarded for their behavior while the fans are punished. Somebody should have been the example long ago, but greed has backed baseball and the San Francisco Giants into a dark corner. It's not Barry's fault. Giants fans will have their joy while the nation (and, unlikely, this Red Sox fan) await the arrival of A-Rod's big bat and its place in the record books.

Maybe this post should have been titled "MLB vs. NFL". Their responses to the listed infractions have been quite different- and now so their places in the hearts of my fellow americans have perhaps shifted.

Giants fans, enjoy the record! You deserve it. Also look to Lincecum, Matt Cain and the future. Hopefully their will be no more Barry's in your crystal ball since none so far have proven affective in acquiring that elusive ring.

And enjoy the upcoming Niner's season because they are doing it right, suit and all.

SeamHead said...

Will Clark wasn't a hulking figure. Kirby Pucket didn't have the physique of a super hero, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, looked more like gym teachers than body builders. The game was different. The game that I fell in love with saw players steal 50 bases more often then they hit 50 homeruns. The intentional walk was almost exclusively reserved for the eighth place hitter in the NL lineup. The game, at that time, hadn't evolved very far away from its roots.

The steroid era of professional sports is so overwhelming and ubiquitous that there is no simple answer, no one right way to feel. Like any encompassing scandal you can dissect it, and pick one small fraction to debate and never arrive at a conclusion.

Is the trajectory of the game of baseball over the past 20 years unfortunate? Yes. Is it different from the NFL? Hardly. Steroids exist in the NFL, steroids exist in the Olympics, and steroids exist in the Tour De France.

What brought us here? What has us now looking at the current state of MLB from a perch of "disappointment" is the same catalyst that allows millions extreme satisfaction every Sunday and Monday (and the occasional Thursday) each fall and winter. The all mighty dollar.

Did I mention Steroids exist in the NFL? Okay. But, what the NFL does far better than MLB, or any other sport for that matter is sell it's game. It sells its game to the casual fan. It sells it to the die-hard cheese head at Lambeau Field. It sells it to the wife of the husband who is going to ignore her for the next four hours while he watches the Lions play the Vikings. It sells it to the WWE fan that wants to see bone-crushing hits, it sells it to the beer drinker, and most importantly is sells it to the fabulous city of Las Vegas, and the millions of Americans who bet annually an estimated $380 billion dollars on sports related gambling.

Baseball is about the entirety of the game. The records, the players, the single moments that are seared into our collective mind. Like Fisk in '75 keeping it fair, or Jackie Robinson stealing home in 1947, Willie Mays in the '54 World Series at the Polo Grounds, or Edgar Rentaria's World Series winning hit off Charles Naggy in '97, or his lifeless come backer to Keith Foulke in 2004. Football is about the now. I am not saying that the NFL doesn't have a rich tradition, but nothing compares to baseball and the way people treasure the history of the game.

The dollars that went into the pockets of MLB owners count the same as the dollars that go into the pockets of NFL owners. The only difference is the NFL had rules in place prohibiting steroids earlier on, and have benefited from the complacency of their fans who figured that testing equaled a clean sport.

Does this mean Bonds is encroaching on history under an unfair, poorly lit limelight? No, you sleep in the bed you make. As a Giants fan part of me thought the best thing for the game and for Bonds was to retire prior to his return in 2005, and leave the game with 703 homeruns, and the familiar and prized pantheon of Aaron and Ruth atop the career leader list. But this is what we wanted, this is what the owners wanted, and I don’t think we would even think twice about it if this was Sosa or McGwire in 1998, before any BALCO raid or any grand jury testimony. The country didn’t care then, but it is awfully easy to join the crowd whenever it’s angry and has had an epiphany of morality.

Is the ongoing Bonds investigation a conspiracy? No, more like a distraction. Was it created solely for the purpose of distracting? I don’t believe that either. But, Bonds is a lot easier to boo than Al Qaeda is.

It is about the game. The game of baseball will always be there, every summer, everyday, like a friend. The NFL is a mistress, coming around less often, but offering up those moments that allow you to appreciate the now, feed our impulsive animalistic cravings, feel excited and vibrant. The NFL is America’s guilty pleasure; muscle bound physical specimen manhandling other muscle bound physical specimens all while being broadcast into millions of living rooms, bars, and sports books.

Steroids exist in the NFL. We just don't care. Just ask Shawn Merriman.

By the way, can Randy Moss and the ghost of Drew Bledsoe coexist?

fickel said...

I like to shoot up my fighting dogs with steroids before they head to the gym. Just kidding! Cheating has always been a part of sports just ask Gaylord Perry. Vick is not involved with cheating but a "hobby" that is sick and disgusting. I wish Barry's legacy could be different because At&t Park is the park Barry built. Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds are a huge part of the Giants history but the difference in Bonds and Vick is huge.

The Ghost of Drew Bledsoe said...

Yo Theo,

Waiting for your post about the Matt Morris trade and parting shots. The funniest part, I thought, was that despite he was going to Pitt. (a virtual hell hole for MLB) he talked about how he was excited to play in a place that valued young talent and winning and hoped for a manager and front office that had expectations. Heres a job posting for you:

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/wri/387890343.html

P.S. I am dissapointed about the trade now that I am out of the closet and rooting for the Giants.

Isaac said...

Theo,

Nice article, but your contrasting of Vick/Bonds was way too predictable. I think I even saw a piece in the Chronicle last Sunday on the exact contrast that you made.

I think the real story has to do with the American public. The average Joe. I'm an avid Giants fan, but I could give a shit about the White Sox and I maybe watch 3 full games of Football a year, but I know who Vic is and what he's done. The point being, is that the public just doesn't care. They have grown way too cynical and apathetic. No one really cares that Barry was (or is?) on steroids or that he's about to break a record. People just want to care about SOMETHING, but in this era - the era of cynics, pessimists, and lawyers (cheap shot at Rachel) people only care enough to boo.

Booing is easier. Easier to do, takes less effort and arguments against are more readily heard than arguments for.

Bonds is going to break the record, with the help of steroids and Vick (if he doesn't go to San Quentin) will continue to fight dogs.

Can you really condemn either one? Maybe. But, as you said people have cheated in sports/life before and will keep doing so, and the human race has always enjoyed a bloody bout between beasts since before the time of the Gladiators in Rome. In both examples, two noted figures in sports are shoving in our faces the our own horrific nature, and we don't like it. We would rather look through rose colored glasses (or beer goggles for some) at ourselves as a people and proclaim “WE DO NOT CHEAT” and “WE LOVE OUR ANIMALS”. But the truth of the matter is that when we do proclaim and take a “higher” stance on such issues, another noted figure will be splattered on the media for adultery or murder and they will show us again the very ugly nature we are all apart of no matter how enthusiastically we deny it.

SeamHead said...

Sir Isaac,

Thank you for taking the time to read and post your comments on seamhead24.
In defense of myself however the original post date was July 20th, so perhaps the chronicle poached my ideas and not visa versa.
Anyway, I can't disagree with you in terms of the general public, but I don't believe we can paint all fans, casual and otherwise with the same brush. Some are far more passionate, some are far more knowledgeable and some are more ignorant than their peers. It is hard to categorize them all the same way, and thus their opinions, while perhaps being similar were arrived at by very different paths.
It is true that booing is easy. In fact negativity is easier than being positive on many occasions, just read the bumper stickers on the back of cars as you drive around. That being said, I don’t think the American public wants to care about something as you say as much as they want to dislike someone or something. It is a very common practice to jump on a man when he’s down and the mob mentality that is so contagious is usually the spawn of something negative. No body cared about Barry until 73. Now we have a handful of issues just in the last several months that people are for some reason passionate about. Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Brittany Spears are constantly in the news due to their bad behavior. It’s the negative that sells newspapers and the celebrities that cause Middle America, and those types of people (as I generalize once again) to pick up a paper or read the news on the Internet or watch it on TV. And, I think it is a much needed distraction considering what else is going on in the world today.