SAN FRANCISCO—Although Barry Bonds remains the target of criticism over his possible—some say almost certain—use of performance-enhancing substances, the fact that Bonds has not been implicated in dogfighting, nightclub shootings, gambling, or murdering his family has transformed his controversial pursuit of the all-time home-run record into the feel-good sports story of the summer.
"Until we have definitive proof one way or the other, the very presence of so many questions about Bonds and steroids will haunt his achievements forever," ESPN's Peter Gammons said Monday. "However, at this moment, I think we'd all have to agree that having a raging juiced-up misanthrope break the greatest record in sports is a ray of sunshine compared to everything else on the sports page."
"What kind of person electrocutes dogs, let alone fights them?" Gammons added. "I simply can't comprehend it. Go, Barry!"
While Bonds has been routinely greeted with booing and jeering whenever he played outside of San Francisco, the taunting seems to have abated for the moment as sports fans across America lapse into a reflective silence as Bonds approaches the plate.
"I know Bonds is probably 100% pharmaceutical Frankenstein," said Brewers fan Charles Michaels, who waved a banner reading "Make Us Relatively Proud, Barry" while not exactly rooting against Bonds at Milwaukee's Miller Park Sunday night. "But I also know for a certainty that gambling problems didn't compel him to affect the outcome of the NBA playoffs. You have to give him that much."
"Bonds is not exactly my hero," said Braves fan Bradley Hanson, who flew to San Francisco for Monday night's Braves game in order to pointedly not boo Bonds. "But he's a reminder that in these troubled times for sports, there are still players whose crimes are simple, pure, and only tarnish our beloved sport and everything it stands for without killing anybody."
Bonds defiantly refuses to acknowledge, much less answer, any of the dozens of questions regarding his use of illegal substances, often lashing out at clubhouse reporters asking even innocuous baseball-related questions. Yet as of press time, Bonds had not yet been involved in even one single murder.
"Say what you want about Bonds, but he's not a murderer, or even an attempted murderer," San Francisco Chronicle reporter and co-author of Game Of Shadows Lance Williams wrote in Sunday's edition. "The only thing I believe Bonds did was inject himself with Winstrol, Deca-Durabolin, insulin, testosterone, synthetic testosterone, testosterone decanoate, human growth hormones, Norbolethone, Trenbolone, Clomid, and possibly commercial racehorse laxatives, all in order to make himself a better athlete. Not to allow himself to gut-shoot a gentleman's club bouncer, but to become a better athlete. A better athlete it doesn't seem so bad when you think about it like that."
"It's a relief of sorts to see someone putting performance first," Frank Deford said in a New York Times Magazine editorial Sunday. "I think we all believe that Barry has taken steroids, and that they made him into a hulking monster who rewrote the record books. But they didn't turn him into a hulking monster who drugged his wife and children into unconsciousness before strangling them to death and hanging himself from a weight bench. And in these troubled times, Bonds' performance is one we can all reluctantly applaud."