The sad tale of Taylor Hooton, the 17 year old high school pitching hopeful who committed suicide in 2003 following steroid use, has been chronicled on many occasions over the last 8 years, particularly when one of the game’s iconic figures is implicated as a PED enthusiast. While the federal government’s efforts to convict Barry Bonds were partially successful (at considerable cost), USA Today’s Christine Brennan calls the Sultan Of Surly’s guilt on an obstruction of justice charge, “vindication” for Hooton’s father, Don.
“It’s a great day,” Hooton, president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, said to me on that phone call. “It’s a wonderful day. There’s the technicality of what he was guilty of and what the jury couldn’t decide on, but the overall message is that word: guilty. He got caught. He got caught as the cheat that he is.”
“It’s about the kids,” Hooton said. “Before the verdict, I was hoping the embarrassment Bonds has been going through, having his name and reputation dragged through the mud in that courtroom, would be enough of a deterrent to help young people decide the path they should be taking, that they should choose not to take performance-enhancing drugs.
“But now, with a guilty verdict, even on just that one count, it hopefully sends a clear message to kids that cheating doesn’t pay, that there is a long-term downside for doing these drugs. One of the common threads that runs through the conversation about performance-enhancing drugs is that everybody does it. The other message is that you lie and lie and lie about it until you have no choice not to, that somehow you’ll get away with it. Look at Floyd Landis or Marion Jones. They lied and lied and lied until they got caught.
“Well, now they’ve caught Barry Bonds, too. The big fish is in the boat.”
With all due respect to Mr. Hooton — who deserves ridicule far less than Brennan and her editors in this instance — aren’t Peter Magowan and Bud Selig big fish, too? If Bonds’ conviction — for which he might never serve a day in prison — can be called a vindication for the Hooton family, what of the gainful MLB employment of Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi? Aside from the odd bit of blog abuse, what negative consequences have these chemically enhanced superstars suffered? “The hulking slugger whose head grew and body expanded so he could hit a baseball farther will now be viewed, officially, as the personification of the Steroids Era in not only baseball but all of sports,” gushes Brennan, who we’ll have to hope is only prevented from applying similar pariah status to Roger Clemens, Shawne Merriman or Lance Armstrong by the absence of a federal conviction.