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Barry Bonds and the New England Patriots and us

posted by David Kuo

Barry Bonds has been indicted “on five felony charges — four for perjury and one for obstruction of justice — for testifying before a federal grand jury in 2003 that he never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone.”
It is simultaneously big and anti-climactic. That baseball’s all-time home run leader will stand trial for beefing up his body to enhance his performance – something also known as cheating – is big news. That the person is Barry Bonds is something of a yawner.
One reason for the yawn is that Bonds has already stood trial in the court of public opinion. The verdict? Something of a hung jury. A few – a very few – think he is innocent and the target of a witch hunt. Some think he should be stripped of his home run record and forever banned from baseball. Others believe the records should stand but be marked with a giant *. Every opinion between the two can be found as well.
The other, more important, reason is that Americans have grown cynical about their athletes. “Everyone does it, only some get caught” is a common refrain from both fans and sports commentators.
How tragic.
Sports were once a place to escape precisely that kind of cynicism. There was actually a time when people said that “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.” And people meant it. There was an inherent honor and dignity in doing ones best no matter the outcome. Cheating was considered a disgrace because it robbed sports of their beauty and their purpose and it robbed the athlete of their dignity. And when it was uncovered it was dealt with very, very harshly.
That time is long gone.
The poster child to prove this is not Barry Bonds, it is the New England Patriots.
This past fall when the Patriots were found guilty of cheating by videotaping the other teams’ coaches to determine the plays they would be running, they were severely punished by the NFL. They received the harshest penalty against a team in NFL history, losing a first-round draft pick and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Poll after poll showed that people weren’t terribly offended and many commentators blew it off. Cheating, they said, was just a part of the NFL. Teams steals signs from other teams all the time. The Patriots were just a little worse and they were dumb enough to get caught. What mattered, they said, was winning.
When the Patriots next played a game at home, their coach, the one who orchestrated the cheating was greeted with a standing ovation.
Now people are saying that the cheating wasn’t that important. After all, they are winning all their games.
Are they right? No, it just makes them a lot like Barry Bonds.
Think about this for a moment. Before Bonds started taking steroids, he was still one of the best – if not the best – baseball players in the game:

Before steroids, Bonds was an outstanding player and a likely Hall of Famer, the numbers affirm. In more than 6,600 at-bats over 13 seasons, he batted .290 and hit 411 homers with 1,216 RBIs. He made the All-Star team eight times and was selected the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1990, 1992 and 1993. Had he retired after the
1998 season, he would rank 40th on the all-time home run list, above Duke Snider. His 1,357 walks would rank 28th.

We can’t do anything about Barry Bonds anymore. His career is already almost over. His legal punishment awaits. But we can do something about the New England Patriots. We can say that yes, they are having an amazing season, but they cheated and that means that their attainments are marred. There needs to be a certain mark of shame that comes with cheating. Our children need to know that. Other teams and athletes need to know that. And most importantly we need to know that.
We need to be reminded that winning at all costs isn’t winning at all – that how the game is played matters very, very much… both in sports and in life.



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Elvis Elvisberg

posted November 16, 2007 at 5:37 am


Now people are saying that the cheating wasn’t that important. After all, they are winning all their games.
The fact that the Patriots have won all their games by record margins since they got caught indicates that their rulebreaking was not a huge factor in their winning.
You’re right that it’s often lost in these discussions that Bonds was a certain Hall of Famer before he is thought to have started using. But he changed the character of his game by his alleged use. He hadn’t been hitting 50-70 HRs before.
Do you think that the 1951 Giants should forfeit their win over the Dodgers? I don’t think it’s disputed that they were using binoculars or a telescope to steal signs and pass them on to hitters– including Bobby Thompson.



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Blendah Tom

posted November 16, 2007 at 10:27 am


David,
If anything this separates the two situations..Everything is not black and white.. One situation (Bonds) has been knowingly cheating and more importantly has completely disgraced the game.. now what the Patriots did was much less damaging.. they way they went about it was in my eye’s was more reprehensible.. now they did pay a price a heavy one like you discussed above? Bonds has skated through all of this till this point and may still get off..
The Patriots got caught breaking a rule..they paid the price…. but you can’t say that any of the accomplishments from that point on have been any less impressive..
I can’t wait to read any posts after 12/9/2007 :)



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canucklehead

posted November 16, 2007 at 11:38 am


The most pathetic thing about all this is the “win at all costs” mentality it conveys.



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Phil DeBrier

posted November 16, 2007 at 2:13 pm


Bonds has been indicted for perjury and obstruction. Not for cheating, but ofr lying about it. Al Capone got nailed for tax evasion, so punishment is punishment, regardless of the offense.
I’m not the biggest football fan in the world, but I do recognize that the level of offense of the breaking of rules can vary. No one is suggesting that what the Patriots did is on the scope of the Black Sox scandal. I also have to agree with with your other posters – New England has been beating the snot out of other teams without the benefit of this extra (cheating) video, so maybe it’s time to recognize that this is a really good team, as opposed to looking for any reason to tear down their accomplishments.
All teams scout other teams. Kirk Gibsons home run in the 88 Series was a result of good scouting on the Oakland A’s, but he still had to put the bat on the ball. No body has ever suggested that because the Dodgers paid scouts to review video of how Eckersley pitches that that was cheating, just good scouting. The Patriots got to agressive with their video, and were punished for it. It’s time to forgive, and move on. I’m still betting my son that New England will probably get tripped up by some 2-12 team towards the end of the season….
Phil



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NONA

posted November 16, 2007 at 2:41 pm


I don’t believe that the NE situation and bonds are the same at all! I believe that there is some form of cheating in all sports at every level. The punishment for the cheating should fit and I believe that the New England Patriots paid the debt and with all the sports nation asking if maybe they should loose all of the super bowl titles they have moved on in the face of it all! for all the people crying they are running the ball down everyones throat…play better!



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Larry Parker

posted November 16, 2007 at 10:25 pm


The Steelers’ fan is coming out in you, David ;-P
Yes, Bonds and Belichick are incredibly arrogant winners who cheated and who divide people as a result. (Funny how San Franciscans love Bonds and New Englanders love Belichick …)
But using steroids to set the ultimate baseball record is a little different than using spying to win a game the Patriots surely would have won anyway. Dontcha think?



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godisaheretic

posted November 16, 2007 at 11:27 pm


yes, the Patriots were videotaping against league rules…
but they never got to use the videotape…
and the NFL let their win stand…
so if they finish the year undefeated, the video will have played no part in their achievement…
on the other hand…
just to state the obvious…
Bonds’ use of steroids played a huge part in breaking home run records…
so there are very significant differences between the two…
and regarding the Patriots and “us”…
before their first victorious Super Bowl, the Patriots dismissed the individual pregame introductions and ran onto the field together…
win or lose, how they played the game was as a team…
for “us”, some of our worst are individuals who do whatever they have the power to do with no consideration for others…
“us” are at our best when we run together as a team…

faith hope love joy peace to all…



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Kathaleen(AZ)

posted November 17, 2007 at 8:18 am


I love baseball and have since I was a child. I am 52 now and what I see my favorite sport becoming is upsetting to me. Barry Bonds should be accountable for his actions and his destruction of the sport. It is not his race but his person that has brought him down. I don’t know why the commissioner and San Diego allowed him to play injured so he could hit his homeruns. I have watched baseball a long time to know that no other player would be allowed to do this. He cost San Diego a chance at a world series because he could not run fast enough to catch a ball. My question is why was he allowed to continue to self destruct in front of everyone when others were held accountable? He could have gone to the Hall of fame without steroids but now he will be forever in the Hall of Shame.



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Phil DeBrier

posted November 17, 2007 at 12:09 pm


It’s a bit more complicated to answer why Barry “self destructed”. If you recall the year baseball came off of its strike shortened season all of America cheered when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa made the run at Roger Maris single season home run record. Less obvious with Sammy, but incredibly obvious with Mark that McGuire was juiced. Had the stuff in his locker, and did not even try to hide it. No rules in Baseball banning the stuff. Besides, it was good for business. Barry, being the self serving guy that he is, wanted a piece of that action and hopped on board, for better or worse.
So, in his 14 years with San Francisco, Barry made a ton of money, took the team to the World Series, and tore up his body in the process. Missed most of the 2006 season because of bad knees. Has never been known to play hurt. Most players, including Barry, profess to have received these “medications” on advice of doctors to help them recover from injuries. So, do we crucify Barry because he has been an insufferable prick and an overall person, but give a pass to Paul Byrd, generally regarded as an overall good guy, who got his HGH from a mail order dentist? I don’t like to bring up race, but I don’t see those in the sports press drilling into Paul Byrd like they are Barry – I sure hope that’s not because of the color of the man’s skin.
Cheers….Phil



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Timbo

posted November 19, 2007 at 2:58 pm


I appreciate the spirit of David’s post, but we should resist the temptation to look back in time toward a golden age, when sports were pure. Athletes and coaches have always cheated. Even before the days of multi-million-dollar salaries, players and coaches cheated to win. In fact, the situation today — with 24-hour, slow-motion instant-replay coverage of sports — is probably better than it has ever been.
Regarding the Patriots, it seems clear that they’re earning this year’s victories fair and square. But I do think that their previous Superbowl wins are tainted – or at least they could be. In each of those years, they won many close games, and they weren’t the dominant team they are this season. They won two of their Superbowl titles on last-second field goals. If their videotaping of opposing teams’ signals gave them even a tiny edge, it could certainly have swung the balance in a few of their close contests.



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