It’s official: Barry Bonds has evolved into Al Capone.
I don’t mean it in the sense that he doesn’t seem to have a fan on the planet and inspires more booing than an "Ashlee Simpson: Unplugged" taping. Every sport has a vilified athlete. Basketball’s got Ron Artest. Football has Terrell Owens. Hockey has Todd Bertuzzi. Vijay. Tyson. Even fishing has a Dennis Rodman of sorts, Mike Iaconelli, an interesting, colorful character, who, if you’re interested to learning more about him, has an autobiography coming out May 17th, co-written by… coincidentally enough, Andrew and Brian Kamenetzky.
(FYI, I swear that will be the only blatant shill for our book that will appear in this blog. Unless, of course, I can think of any other ways to semi-organically work more in. Then it becomes a crapshoot.)
The thing is, a guy like TO gets booed a fair amount. Even in Philly. But he still has some fans. I see guys in Owens jerseys now and then. I’ve seen one person in my life wearing a Pittsburgh Bonds jersey. It’s actually the only Bonds jersey I’ve ever seen not being worn on a field. Do they even sell them?
But being sports’ public enemy #1 isn’t what made Bonds Capone. I’m not talking about this in metaphorical terms. I mean it in a literal sense. After all the juicing allegations and inquiries, BALCO, Bonds’ trainers, associates and everyone he’s known since third grade coming under investigation, a bizarre spring training press conference meltdown, and recent news that he regularly visits some quack about two steps removed from Dr. Feelgood… After this laundry list of high profile scandals, like Capone, he may be done in by a rather mundane thing like taxes. Apparently, the government insists they all be paid. They’re picky like that at the IRS.
You can picture everything about Barry now relating back to Big Al. Capone bootlegged booze. Bonds is accused of being a contraband recipient. Capone had the entire city scared. Bonds scares the **** out of pitchers, teammates, reporters, and just about everyone he meets. Both were bald. In sheer broad strokes, it’s easy to picture Barry as MLB’s “Most likely to end up in Alcatraz.”
But you can get into little minutia, too. Remember DeNiro at the end of "The Untouchables" (This movie, by the way, will serve as my sole "factual" reference regarding Capone. I realize historical accuracy isn’t always best left in the hands of Brian DePalma, but what are you gonna do?)? He’s screaming at the judge, "Your honor? Is this justice?" after the guy had the gall to deny Capone a bought jury. Not too far off from Barry’s classic "I don’t know what cheating is” rant during spring training. Both have odd viewpoints on what qualifies as “fair.” And take the scene where Capone beats that dude with a bat at the dinner table, after making a speech about baseball (ah, more common ground!). Even if Bonds claims he’d never do that, and perhaps he truly wouldn’t, that doesn’t mean it’s not easy picturing going batty with a Louisville slugger while people are trying to enjoy their coffee.
But ironically, the man whose astonishing physicality arouses fear, suspicion, and awe could face his most deadly opposition in the form of paper pushers and white-collar assassins. Barry’s taken on Clemens. He’s made the The Big Unit think twice. He’s made Schilling throw around him. You don’t expect Barry Bonds to fall prey to a guy sporting wire-framed glasses, a tie and coffee breath.
Then again, nobody saw Capone’s machine guns jamming up in the face of an audit, either.