Though I’ve already had my own correspondence with Page 2’s Jeff Pearlman on the matter of HR King / Evil Doer Barry Bonds, Shysterball’s Craig Calcaterra is another observer who takes considerable umbrage at Pearlman’s characterization of the Sultan of Surly.
When I read Pearlman’s comments about Bonds’ alleged malevolence, I asked myself two questions: (1) is Barry Bonds truly “evil” in a way that makes sense given the definition of that term?; and (2) even if we suspect that he is, does calling Bonds evil add anything to the discussion? I say no to both questions. Further, I believe that even if you think he’s the worst thing to happen to baseball since the Black Sox scandal, calling Barry Bonds evil actually works against the interests of those who purport to care about steroids in baseball.
While I’ll grant it’s a subjective definition of the term, I am one of those people who is inclined to reserve concepts like “evil” for those who are truly evil in the Hitler/Pol Pot/Al Qaeda/child molester sense of the term, as opposed to unleashing it on simple assholes. In my mind, those who are evil — and they are thankfully rare — not only do truly heinous things, but do so knowing just how heinous their acts are. Moreover, they simply don’t care, either because they are psychotic or because they place their own particular values and goals above the lives and well-being of others.
Bonds’ actions, as well as the actions of others who have taken performance enhancing drugs, are totally explainable, even if inexcusable, without reference to evil. There were incentives in place that were not unique to Barry Bonds, and there were hordes of people looking the other way — myself included — who tacitly or explicitly allowed him and countless others to use PEDs. What’s more, there remain consequences of Bonds’ steroids use and the use of others that have yet to be addressed and that will persist even after Barry Bonds retires. When we simply chalk it all up to one man’s evil, however, we risk forever putting off that discussion.
Ironically, then, the end result of the demonization of Barry Bonds is the trivialization of the very thing — steroids — that so many believe make him such a demon in the first place.