Forgive me in advance, but I read Stephen A. Smith’s column this morning in the Inquirer.
In my defense, it was difficult to avoid given the teaser for it was placed above the masthead, on page one of the Inquirer:
BONDS, STEROIDS, AND HYPOCRISY
Stephen A. Smith: Don’t forget who started this mess. SPORTS
And then Smith did what we have all come to expect of him; he played the race card.
According to Smith, Barry Bonds was driven to cheat by no less than white America and its hero at the time, Mark McGwire. In 1998 McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the baseball world with their tandem pursuit of Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. During that time, Bonds, himself a major star, was belting a comparatively paltry 37 dingers.
Enter Stephen A. for the defense.
According to Smith, Major League Baseball (read: white America) wasn’t going to let someone of color, including Sosa, break the record, at least not willingly. Even though everyone knew McGwire was on steroids, they looked the other way. MLB knew it. White America knew it. Black America knew it. And Barry Bonds knew it and bristled.
So, Stephen A. continues, Bonds was driven to cheat, to redeem himself and his race and to get his just desserts. Call it jealousy or ego, Smith allows, but more than anything else from his warped perspective, call it justifiable. But were Smith, a reporter in Philadelphia since 1994, more honest with himself let alone us, he would acknowledge steroids were being abused big time in his own backyard. Right here in Philadelphia, at Broad and Pattison. The 1993 Phillies were notorious for their alcohol and drug abuse well before McGwire’s record run. I don’t recall Smith objecting then.
It would be easy to dismiss the always hysterical Smith and his they-were-doing-it-too defense of Bonds. What troubles me is how many other allegedly fair-minded writers are taking parallel though less strident tacks. More writers than I would imagine including local ones (Sam Donnellon in today’s Daily News) and national columnists (Kurkjian and Gammons among others) are blaming MLB for looking the other way during all of this, arguing that, yes, Bonds cheated, but since it wasn’t illegal at the time and because so many others were also using, we simply have to shake our heads, cluck our tongues, and accept the consequences and the records.
But even that isn’t enough for Smith. He wants someone to take the fall and his candidate is Mark McGwire. Apparently unsatisfied that McGwire’s testimony before Congress last year likely cost him any chance at the Hall of Fame to say nothing of the lasting damage to his reputation, Smith wants to lay the blame for the entire steroid era at his feet. More to the point, Stephen A. wants to absolve Barry Bonds -- all too human in his frailties -- for his abuses, claiming McGwire made him do it.