02.28.09

Zirin On The Government’s Collapsing Case Against The Sultan Of Surly

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, The Law at 9:21 pm by

Barry Bonds’ trial on perjury charges was delayed indefinitely Friday when federal prosecutors elected to appeal U.S. District Judge Susan Illston‘s ruling that portions of their evidence weren’t admissible.  Full credit then, to the Nation’s Dave Zirin (“without Greg Anderson, the state’s case was always weak. But now it is on serious life support”), who saw this one coming down the pike several days ago (link courtesy Ben Schwartz)

Illston’s ruling was an indictment of not only the government’s case but its entire approach toward Bonds from day one. John Ashcroft’s Justice Department always seemed irrationally determined to prosecute Bonds. It was as obsessive as the fisherman Santiago attempting to bring home the great marlin in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Whether or not you are a Barry Bonds fan, or consider him to be just a step above a seal-clubbing, pitbull-fighting bank executive, every person of good conscience should be aghast at the way the Justice Department has gone about its business. Barry Bonds, Greg Anderson and maybe thousands of others have had their rights trampled on, all for the glory of a perjury case that looks to be going absolutely nowhere. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama have strongly indicated that the government is getting out of the steroid monitoring business. That is welcome, but after so many years, so many tax dollars and so many reputations destroyed, it all feels positively Pyrrhic.

At the end of The Old Man and the Sea, when Santiago finally returns to shore, his 18-foot catch has been reduced to a skeleton. A crowd gathers to gawk and imagine what the magnificent marlin once was. Santiago completed his journey with nothing, but he felt purified for the battle and slept deeply and proudly. As we pick through the bones of Barry Bonds, I can’t imagine Jeff Novitzky feels the same.

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