With Barry Bonds being sentenced to house arrest yesterday, this weekend marks the second consecutively where steroids in baseball is in the news. We can debate the severity and the justice of Bonds’ penalty all day long, but that’s not the purpose of this column. This is really more about perception than anything else. Do certain people get a “pass?”
Survey says: YES. If you think that’s fair, we probably wouldn’t get along; if you think it’s not, I’m right there with you. The fact is that in a certain sense this world smiles on some and spits on others. Some people just get a pass for some of the things that go on during their watch. Barry Bonds was thought of as a “bad dude” for quite awhile by a lot of people. Remember as a youngster with the Pirates when he got into it with manager Jim Leyland in camp? Bonds has always had a bit too large of a chip on his shoulder in the opinion of many.
In contrast, Ryan Braun is thought of as one of the “good guys.” He seems very endearing to the general public, and he seems to have fun playing the game. He endears himself to the media on a consistent basis, whereas guys like Bonds seemed to go out of their way to be disliked by media and in some cases fans.
You see where I’m going with this, right? Let me say for the record that in no way am I saying that either player is any more or less guilty (if in fact they’re guilty) due to the way that they come across. Anyone that uses banned substances is accountable for that, along with the rest of their actions. However I feel like both fans and the media alike was very quick to convict Bonds in the court of public opinion. The fact is that many people (again, fans and media) wanted the guy to be guilty so they could rip him apart.
Again in contrast, people seem to be walking the line very finely with regard to Braun. He’s considered one of the “good guys.” Most fans and media don’t in fact want him to be guilty, and that’s reflected in the way the story is reported and discussed. Over the course of this week I’ve seen countless postings to the effect of let’s wait and see how the appeal process comes out before convicting the guy on various message boards. Obviously Brewers’ fans are taking this stance, because they stand to lose the most if Braun is guilty as charged. However that’s a sentiment that I’ve seen league-wide. That warms my soul in a way; I believe in innocent until proven guilty, and part of that pillar of justice is the right to an appeal. So I don’t want to rush to judgement on Ryan Braun or anyone else.
However that wasn’t the case with Barry Bonds. Admittedly this is not an apples-to-apples comparison; Bonds’ numbers were climbing higher and higher when his age dictated that they should be going down. Braun’s numbers have been fairly consistent over time. However as I said, many people want to see Barry Bonds convicted; they want him to be guilty. Years ago, I took the innocent until proven guilty attitude with Bonds. First off, I always admired him as a ballplayer (regardless of his attitude). However I also knew that his guilt would be bad for the game. But that aside, I would say at this point Bonds has bee “proven guilty.” (So far as I’m concerned Hank Aaron is the home run king.)
This is not an exact science. However I think that perception does have something to do with…perception (for lack of a better term). Last week when the news of Braun’s impending 50-game suspension came down I was in a bar; there were people there who actually questioned the legitimacy of a 50-game suspension for a first steroid offense. 50 games is far too much for a “good guy” like Ryan Braun. Yet the same people were probably arguing that 30 days of house arrest wasn’t enough. Bonds is a “bad dude,” he should get more than that!
Make no mnistake about the fact that you should be “good” all of the time. Especially this time of year, Santa’s watching right?! However is it not possible that more and more “good guys” might in truth be “bad dudes” in the sense that they’re juicers? And on the flip side, isn’t there the chance that some of the perceived “bad dudes” are in fact the “good guys?” Without a doubt. However odds are against people seeing things that way because of perception.
Ultimately, I believe in due process and in the concept of innocent until proven guilty. However for better or worse, how you come across can sometimes influence the fine line of justice in public opinion. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.
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