You’ve got to hand it to Barry Bonds. After refusing to comment on the results of his recent grand jury testimony, Bonds came out firing on all cylinders at his press conference last week when he arrived at San Francisco’s spring training. In only a few minutes, Bonds graciously provided the media with a year’s worth of sound bites, sounding off on such topics as Sanford and Son, steroids, lying reporters, and Babe Ruth.
It’s not easy being Barry. This is a man who’s been stuck with many labels over the years, almost none of them positive. You can start out with “greatest hitter of all time,” “seven-time MVP,” and “record breaker.” Of course, there’s also “cheater,” “steroid user,” bad teammate,” “hothead,” “liar,” and “team cancer.” Those are pretty harsh words, and it’s easy to see why Bonds would not be too friendly with the media — if this is the way he is being labeled.
Bonds has never been a media darling, and he really didn’t endear himself further last Tuesday when he accused the media of lying.
“All you guys lie, all of y’all, in a story or whatever, have lied. Should you have an asterisk behind your name? All of you have lied. All of you have said something wrong, all of you have dirt. All of you. When your closet’s clean, then come clean somebody else’s. But clean yours first, okay.”
Bonds’ reaction here is both puzzling and irrational. What is he talking about? What are reporters lying about? Of course, people have secrets. However, members of the media aren’t public figures like Bonds is. No one cares about the personal life of a reporter, but people care if one of the best professional athletes in the world is cheating by taking an illegal substance.
Not satisfied with his rant so far, Bonds continued into shakier logical territory.
“The sports world is bad as it is because this is the only business that allows you guys in our office to begin with. You can’t just go to Bank of America, walk in the office, and start interviewing employees.”
This analogy is, in a word, awful. There’s a huge difference between a professional baseball player and a bank employee. A bank employee does not get paid millions of dollars, have his work broadcast on national television, or have millions of people rooting for him to finish a loan application. His salary is not contingent on people buying tickets to see him do his job.
Bonds fails to see the simple connection between the media and his salary. If it weren’t for the media coverage, the television broadcasts, or the sports networks, people would not be able to follow sports at all. No fans equals no money for Mr. Bonds. It’s not that complicated, and that’s what’s so irritating about his comments. He seems to think that the fans are lucky to watch him play.
He also thinks he’s worth more than the other players, as evidenced by his refusal to sign the MLBPA group licensing agreement in November 2003. The agreement allows the union to negotiate licensing deals on behalf of all the players, with each player getting a share of the profits. By not signing the agreement, Bonds can negotiate separate licensing arrangements for more money. Because he rejected the group agreement, Bonds did not appear in several baseball card sets and video games last year. This is a big blow to the union, and could open the door for other players to opt out as well (Michael Jordan and LaVarr Arrington are the other two notable athletes who have not signed their union’s group licensing agreements in the past).
All of these things are not conducive to a positive media image. Most of the time, a player can act like a jerk to the media and it won’t make that much of a difference. Unfortunately for Bonds, he happens to be caught up in one of the biggest sports scandals in recent memory. With his grand jury testimony uncovered, maybe the recent press conference would have been a good time for Bonds to answer some questions about steroids. Jason Giambi apologized last month (although not directly for taking steroids); would Bonds have it in him to do the same?
Reporter: Jason Giambi felt the need to make an apology. Is there anything that you need to apologize for?
Bonds: What did I do?
When asked if he thought steroids were considered cheating, Bonds summoned his inner politician.
“I don’t — I don’t know what cheating is. I don’t know cheating, if steroid is going to help you in baseball. I just don’t believe it. I don’t believe steroids can help you, eye/hand coordination, technically hit a baseball, I just don’t believe it and that’s just my opinion.”
Deny. Deny. Deny. It’s a great way to argue. So all that’s required to hit a home run is hand-eye coordination? Really? So muscle strength has nothing to do with hitting a ball far? I suppose steroids won’t help you get your bat on the ball, but I’ll bet they can make you hit the ball a lot farther.
With the baseball season starting in a month, the Barry Bonds talk is not going to die down in the slightest. Bonds had a chance to gain some sympathy in his press conference, but he instead further alienated himself from the media and the fans. Until the BALCO case is resolved, reporters will continue to ask Bonds about steroids and Bonds will continue to dodge key questions. Hopefully, one day, he’ll give the fans a straight answer.
Jonathan Auerbach is a Sun Staff Writer. I Never Kid will appear every other Wednesday this semester.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach