Barry Bonds: Right Punishment, Wrong Reason?

Bonds shouldn't be on trial. Still, it couldn't have happened to a (not so) nicer guy.

Barry Bonds (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Barry Bonds is not a nice person. He will degrade you, dismiss you and steal your confidence if he can. The smile. The arrogance. The smugness. It's who he is. Let's just say I don't feel sorry for him. I've been on the business end of his abuse.

But I'm not the only one who has a problem with Bonds. These days it's the federal government. Yet despite my personal dislike for the man, I still have to wonder why he's being targeted.

This week, the long-awaited trial of the 46-year-old home run king, who was originally indicted in November 2007 for lying to a grand jury about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, began in a San Francisco federal courthouse.

Bonds faces four charges of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice, all in connection with his testimony before the grand jury that investigated the BALCO sports steroid scandal in 2003.

Is it because he's black? Probably not, but you still have to wonder. Consider that Mark McGwire has come through this steroid scandal virtually unscathed. Which is amazing, given that he essentially lied by omission before Congress. Yet he's not sitting before a firing squad. McGwire is the hitting coach in St. Louis, Mo., for the very same club he played for when he allegedly cheated baseball.

And it may be possible that Bonds lied to the grand jury. I can't say with absolute certainty that he did, and nor can anyone else, because grand jury testimony is secret. But I have learned that where there is smoke, there is fire. But even if he did lie, his perjury trial seems to be overuse of taxpayer money and government abuse just to prove that he did.

No one should lie under oath, but this is ridiculous. The prosecution's star witnesses: a mistress, a former business partner and a boyhood friend who refuses to testify. I'm sure the federal government has issues far more pressing than to spend a few million dollars to imprison Bonds.

If Bonds is guilty of anything, it's being difficult. He's the perfect example of misplaced pride and hubris. Bonds' trial is the direct result of some of the choices he made: Whether you use steroids, cheat on your wife or treat people badly, it all comes back to haunt you at some point. Some people call it karma.   

My first encounter with Bonds was at Shea Stadium in New York in 1997. I was the only black member of the press corps at the time, and the only one covering national baseball for a metropolitan daily newspaper. I was there to write a column about his greatness. He not only proceeded to humiliate me in front of a clubhouse full of my colleagues, but he also capped it off by calling me an Uncle Tom for covering baseball.  

It's one thing to be called an Uncle Tom in a documentary about a group of guys who were teenagers trying to find themselves; it's another to be called one by Bonds, who at the time was good and grown, had cemented a Hall of Fame career and didn't know me at all. I would have much rather he called me a nigga.