Monday, November 19, 2007

Barry Lamar Bonds – Liar, Liar Pants on fire

The American judicial system has been built around the premise that everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty. Barry Bonds will have his day in court, but regardless in the court of public opinion Barry Bonds has long been guilty. Barry Bonds and his team of highly priced and paid for lawyers may yet find a way to prove the alleged 19 lies the Federal Grand Jury believes Barry made before a Grand Jury in 2003 never took place, but of this there is no doubt – Barry Bonds has brought shame to Major League Baseball with his boorish behavior throughout is MLB career.

His achievements as an athlete aside – Barry Bonds has earned $187 million in his 21 year MLB career, an astounding amount of money, and with that much money came a sense of responsibility, a sense its clear Barry Bonds never had.

Throughout his MLB career Barry Bonds has had at best had a fractured relationship with the media. The story that will unfold in the coming weeks and months relating to Barry Bonds will provide the media with all the ammunition they’ve ever needed to bury whatever remains of Barry Bonds reputation. The sad truth – Barry could care less.

That aside, the issue that needs to be considered – should athletes be held accountable, should professional athletes be held to a higher standard than we do others in society? The short answer – absolutely. If you are a professional athlete and you’ve been paid $187 million to play baseball (regardless of how great an athlete you are) you need to be held to a higher standard. If you don’t want to be held to that higher standard than find another career path.

As has so often been the case throughout his professional baseball career Barry Bonds has been his own worst enemy. The federal indictment is just the latest in litany of Bonds related stories that clearly demonstrate how Bonds thinks about his place in the world.

This remains one of the classic Bonds as a bad guy stories of all time. In June 2005 excerpts of former Chicago White Sox Ron Kittle’s book were leaked. The passage that found its way to various media outlets focused on an encounter Kittle had with Barry Bonds, an alleged tale that painted Bonds in the worst possible light.

The Bonds incident involved Ron Kittle and a meeting Kittle didn’t enjoy with Bonds at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in 1993. Kittle hoped to auction a signed Barry Bonds jersey at a golf event, with the proceeds being given to a children’s charity. Kittle has written a book, “Ron Kittle's Tales from the White Sox Dugout” and included Bonds reaction to being asked to autograph a jersey which would benefit needy children.

"I paid about $110 of my own money for them, so they could be auctioned off at the golf outing. I did that all the time for stars like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens. When I tell them how their autographs help the cause, every player gladly signs — with one exception.

I walked up to Bonds at his locker in the Wrigley Field visitors' clubhouse, introduced myself and said, "Barry, if you sign these, they'll bring in a lot of money for kids who need help."

Bonds stood up, looked me in the eye and said, "I don't sign for white people." If lightning hits me today, I will swear those were his exact words. Matt Williams and other Giants were in the room and they heard what Bonds said.

I stood there for a minute, and the veins in my neck were popping. I've only been that mad a few times in my life. I was going to beat the (heck) out of him, really kick his (butt), but Williams saw what was happening, so he came over and got between us. Matt said, "Ron, that's just the way he is."

I said, "White guys aren't the only ones who get cancer," but Bonds had turned his back on me and walked out of the clubhouse. Somebody must have run in and alerted Dusty Baker, who was the manager of the Giants then.”

Bonds, initially choose to ignore Kittle’s accusations. Bonds spoke with MLB.com’s Rich Draper and fired these words of wisdom in Kittle’s direction.

"Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league?" asked an incredulous Bonds. "So what did he say? Ha! Do you guys truly believe that? Do you guys truly believe it?"

Bonds says "it's common sense" in denying Kittle's claims.

"Out of fairness to me -- do you guys know my life history a little bit? So why don't you write it's a bunch of [garbage] -- why don't you write that? One, you insult my children, who are half-white; I was married to a woman who was white, so let's get real.

"And I don't even know the guy. And tell him he's an idiot. Tell him that. Somebody said he wanted a piece of me; tell him I'm at 24 Willie Mays -- what's this street called? -- Plaza, and he can come meet me any time he wants to. With pleasure."

Takings Bonds comments at face value, clearly the man has issues with what Ron Kittle is accusing him of doing. Everyone has the right to be upset when they are accused of making terrible comments and in Kittle’s case while he doesn’t come right out and call Bonds a racist the implications are clear – by refusing to sign the Barry Bonds baseball jersey because , "I don't sign for white people.", if true Bonds is indeed a racist.

Instead of attempting to set the record straight (in Bonds mind he may indeed have done that), Bonds called Kittle an ‘idiot’ a term Johnny Damon and members of the 2004 Boston Red Sox may have found endearing but most others do not. Barry also offered this assessment of Kittle’s Major League career "Who is Kittle? How long did he play? He played in our league?" Just a silly inane comment from a bitter Barry Bonds.

All Barry Bonds managed to accomplish with his rude and boorish behavior was to further damage whatever was left of his terrible image. Great people rise above bad things that are said about them and move forward. Great people are never afraid to admit they have made a mistake and move forward. Great people set examples as to the type of people they are and move forward. Barry Bonds didn’t do any of those things in reacting to Kittle’s story; all he managed to do was bring credibility to what Kittle said about him and further embarrass himself and MLB.

As for Kittle, he offered these comments to the Associated Press at the time: "It's the truth. I don't lie," Kittle told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. "I tell it as it is. It's unfortunate it happened. And I didn't bring it up to sell the books."
Incidents and similar experiences others have had with Barry Bonds fuel how the media (and therefore the public feel about Barry Bonds). It’s impossible to speculate why Barry Bonds acts the way he does, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying.

Former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman who former Major League pitcher John Rocker once called a "liberal Jew with an agenda", wrote the best selling book Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero in 2006 (published three weeks after Game of Shadows was released) offered the definitive look at Bonds personality when he spoke to 524 people about Barry Bonds.

Pearlman spoke with the publishers of Deadspin.com shortly after his Bonds book was released sharing a number of thoughts on Barry Lamar Bonds.

“Bonds is normal in that he's very kind to children around the clubhouse, he likes TV and, uhm, yeah. But there's an important point to be made here, and I can't underestimate it: A lot of this is not his fault.

“What else should we expect from a kid whose father raised his son to win at all costs; who was never taught the value of money or hard work and never learned about treating people with dignity? From a very early age, Barry that that athletic brilliance is a ticket to the easy life, and that if you are blessed with great physical skills, you will be worshipped and admired without fail. He saw that with his dad, with Willie Mays, with the other guys in the Giants clubhouse in the late 1960s and early 70s. In short, he was groomed to be the man he is.” Pearlman told Deadspin.

Many of the issues concerning Barry Bonds go back to the many challenges Bobby Bonds faced in his life. Pearlman made one issue clear to Deadspin – Barry is a better father than Bobby ever was.

“Unquestionably. Barry tries with his kids--he genuinely tries. He showers them with a lot of love and attention. On the other hand, he can also be very condescending to his kids, and his judgment is often, uhm, questionable. For example, last spring when he begged cameramen to include his son Nikolai in the frame during a tirade against the media. The poor kid looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there. But we all have lapses, I suppose.”

But should we hold professional athletes accountable when and if they lie?

"There is not a minute that goes by that some federal agent or federal prosecutor or law enforcement figure somewhere is not being lied to by someone," said Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who teaches law at the University of Southern California in an Associated Press report

"What the government tends to do is not prosecute perjury unless it's a high-profile case," Rosenbluth said. "You can send the message out worldwide saying, 'Do not lie to us.' Barry Bonds is a perfect example."

"This is the latest in a long litany of America's near-obsession with the troublesome black athlete. Whether it's Terrell Owens, Michael Vick or now Barry Bonds, black athletes who don't toe the line are going to be held accountable," said Steven Millner, chairman of the African American Studies Department at San Jose State University.

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, told The Associated Press that regardless of whether racial bias made Bonds subject to disparate treatment, it remains an important issue for professional sports and society because the perception is there.

"If you are a kid trying to decide what sport to play and look at Major League Baseball, and then see the person who is arguably the greatest player of his generation not being a favorite of the media even before the steroids story became as pronounced, you are going to be less likely to choose baseball," Lapchick said in an AP report.

"We live in a culture where the biggest sin seems to be getting caught lying or cheating, and this would be a federal entity saying that Barry Bonds did both," Lapchick, a sports ethicist at the University of Central Florida added in a Washington Post report. “We're talking about, arguably, the greatest player of his generation now being subject to this federal indictment. Though it's been expected by a lot of people, it says something about not only Barry Bonds, but about the failure of baseball for so long to monitor the situation that it became acceptable among players to take these kinds of steps."

In the coming days, weeks and months the Barry Bonds story will be the most debated issue not only in the sports world but among the nation’s news pages as well. There are many different issues concerning Bonds indictment that will be well worth looking in the near future, but at but at least today, in the pages of Sports Business News its this issue –should Barry Bonds who earned $187 million he be held culpable for his actions on and off the field. This isn’t about whether Barry Bonds perverted the rules of baseball for his own self gain, but rather the moral standard he (or didn’t) set as a man. Sorry Barry, you wanted it, you earned it now you’ll have to pay the price.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: Deadspin.com, the Associated Press and The Washington Post

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