Barry Bonds: scapegoat

Barry Bonds is being framed.

MLB and its fans need a scapegoat, a patsy, and Bonds has been chosen as the unwilling victim.

Charged, convicted and sent straight to the gallows – all without a proper trial – the six-time MVP has fallen prey to those unsightly, ever-swinging pendulums better known as “public opinion” and “the media.”

Beg to disagree? Well, allow me to throw a few names your way then. Mark McGwire. Jason Giambi. Jose Canseco. Sammy Sosa. Heck, let’s get out of baseball. How about Bill Romanowski?

And to drive it home: Lance Armstrong.

Each one of these professional athletes has had his name associated, in one way or another, with the dark cloud that is steroids. Yet, only Bonds has been burned at the stake.

Only Bonds has had to watch his name, character and image picked up and thrown away like a useless piece of trash.

And the question is: why? Why Bonds?

Why did McGwire, Giambi and Canseco get off relatively scot-free, while Bonds has been tarred and feathered by the public with joyous glee?

Why did the entire print/television/online world (usually as disagreeable as twin siblings) unite as one and shout out “we must erase his records!” the day that the excerpts from “Game of Shadows” were released in Sports Illustrated?

There was never a clamor to erase McGwire’s home runs after his pitiful congressional testimony last year. There wasn’t a campaign to remove Canseco from the record books after his “novel” was released. And when Giambi’s then-secret grand jury testimony was revealed (in which he admitted to using steroids), the media and the public didn’t set up camp and open up a war room like they’ve done for Bonds.

Furthermore, MLB itself suspended 12 players last season for failing the ‘roids test.

Yet, not a single one of these proven cheaters ever saw his statistics called into question.

You didn’t hear any “let’s wipe away Matt Lawton’s stolen bases in ’04” chants when he was banned for 10 games on Nov. 2 of last year. And, for that matter, not too many people were fighting and foaming at the mouth to take away Raffy’s home runs when he flunked the juice quiz either.

Ah, but when Barry Bonds’ name is linked with steroids it’s remarkable – an entirely different beast.

So, what exactly has Bonds done? What has caused all of the outrage, the overwhelming contempt? What horribly unique and horrendous action did Bonds take to have his name ranked up there with Judas and Hitler?

Hmm. Let’s see. He supposedly took steroids. Interesting. Because, you see, that’s really not all that unique, especially in baseball. And especially in Major League Baseball in the early 21st century.

Random stats have floated around for years that 10-50 percent of all major leaguers took steroids during the game’s power surge. Nearly every analyst, critic, former player and fan has in some way thought it a wee little suspicious that Sammy Sosa ballooned from a lanky stick figure to a bulging Goliath in under two years. And when you consider that MLB only began official, stringent testing for steroids last season, just began to test for amphetamines this year, and still doesn’t test for some of the “invisible drugs,” steroids really isn’t the problem.

Yes, cheating is bad. It’s horrible. There’s no question about it. Heck, if I had my way, I’d go back to the days of Aaron, Williams, Mays and Mantle, only play games in the day (on grass) and have players peeing in a cup every day of the week. The playing field would be leveled and talent would shine through.

But cheating has been a part of baseball, of professional sports, for so long now that it’s not even funny. The NFL has an insanely lax steroids and drug policy and the NBA has a hard time defining one itself. Plus, all of those jaw-dropping long balls that McGwire sent into space would have to be pulled off the books, too. That is, if steroids were really the issue.

So then we go to the infidelity. Ooh. That’s a big one. That one’s dangerous. A touchy subject. Bonds allegedly cheated on his wife. Had an acknowledged “other.” Gave her money and a place to stay, all while being married. But, see, it gets tricky here as well.

Because while stats are hard to come by on just how many people cheat while in relationships (there aren’t that many raised hands when the question comes up, you know), you’d be a fool to say that it never happens. And you’d be even more of a fool to say that anyone who does should be fired from their job, banned from their profession or publicly shamed. Yet, that is exactly what is being proposed right now for Bonds.

Lastly, we come to taxes. Bonds allegedly advised his alleged “significant other” on how to scam the IRS out of its profits. Again, another stonewall. Another tricky subject.

Number of people who’ve ever cheated on their taxes? Answer: unknown. Good guess: a lot. But, in regards to Bonds, the media and the public want to punish him for it. They want to make him pay. They want their pound of flesh.

It’s all very – interesting. Everything that Bonds has been publicly assaulted for doing has been done by hundreds (steroids) or millions (cheating on a spouse/taxes) of others. Yet Bonds is “guilty.” He should “pay.” His records need whiteout or an asterisk.

So what’s it say about us? The media? The public? A sports culture that devours its subjects like it’s never seen food before? Not much.

Especially when you add in the unavoidable fact that Bonds is an African-American who is generally regarded as being “outspoken” (read: arrogant, opinionated, self-righteous, proud).

The portrait that we’re painting isn’t all that flattering.

If we’re going to go after Bonds, we’ve got to go after everyone. If we’re not going to go after everyone, then we can’t go after Bonds. It’s that simple.

We’re throwing heavy rocks, but we’re living in a glass house.