We’ll soon find out if Barry Bonds is still relevant 

So ... does time really heal all wounds? Or, specifically if you’re a Giants fan: Does the passing of a few seasons, the emergence of new heroes and the revelry of a current world championship erase the memories of misdeeds committed by heroes of the past? We’re about to find out, as the long-awaited perjury trial of Barry Bonds begins today in federal court.

Three-and-a-half years ago, the Barry Bonds steroids scandal was the biggest story in sports. In August  2007, Bonds broke the most hallowed record in all of team sports. And three months later, a grand jury indicted him for allegedly lying about how he did it. Today, some are asking if it really matters all that much.

As Bonds’ march toward Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record was playing out in the late summer and early fall of 2007, brawls were breaking out in sports bars across the country between those who despised Bonds for allegedly cheating his way past Hammerin’ Hank and those who believed he was a scapegoat in an ongoing witch hunt for steroid users.

The debate wasn’t nearly as balanced in San Francisco as it was elsewhere, as defensive Giants fans almost unanimously declared Bonds innocent, choosing to squeeze their eyes shut rather than look at the mountain of evidence gathered and presented in the book “Game of Shadows.”

It was easy to understand why — Bonds and his historic feats were all the Giants had going for them at the time. Absent a world title since moving to California some five decades earlier, the franchise celebrated what it could, and the fans rightly joined in. Naturally, a full governmental and media-driven assault on San Francisco’s favorite son had the faithful circling the wagons around him.

Today, however, one has to wonder just how strong a stand Giants fans will take as Bonds fights to retain his credibility, his legacy and even his freedom.

Do you still care?

Three full years of courtroom maneuvering have passed since the grand jury claimed Bonds lied about knowingly using steroids in his jealousy-fueled quest for baseball immortality.

Three years of Greg Anderson’s refusal to cooperate with federal prosecutors and come clean about which client his meticulously-kept steroids calendars implicated.

Three years of admissions of steroids use by the likes of Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.

And perhaps most importantly, three years of Bonds-less Giants’ baseball have passed, culminating in the euphoric 2010 world championship that makes the Bonds saga seem as old and irrelevant as Larry King.

Will Giants fans rise once again in defense of baseball’s all-time home run king*? Or have they moved on?

And what would a conviction mean to the San Francisco faithful? Faced with a courtroom verdict that unanimously finds Bonds guilty of perjury, would they mentally wipe his accomplishments from the record books? Would fans outside of The City and across the baseball nation do so?

And what about an acquittal? Would it mean validation of Barry’s numbers? Would the personal asterisks disappear if a jury finds reasonable doubt as to his guilt?

The truth is that an acquittal would simply mean the government wasn’t able to prove its case absent its “star” witness — the personal trainer who may well be in for an even longer prison stay for refusing to testify. It would not mean Bonds never used steroids.

But it may not matter.

Three years ago, the fans would have been awaiting the outcome of the United States vs. Barry Lamar Bonds as if it were the seventh game of the World Series.

Three years later, they may treat it like the result of a Cactus League game — one that just doesn’t matter.

Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail
him at
bfrantz@sfexaminer.com.

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