Those of us who live in the Pondlands just outside of San Francisco sometimes allow ourselves a trip to the city just to see how the dry people live.
So it was, last night, that I dressed in my finest woollens (the fog was rolling in like a drunken husband at three in the morning) and went to meet two of my only friends in the bar of a hotel named after one of Vivaldi’s greatest hits.
Before I knew it, I had bumped into my only other two friends, who had an entourage in tow.
It was hard making conversation at first because the perfectly friendly waiter’s definition of what constituted a glass of wine would best be defined as, well, half a glass of wine.
Still, once the Viognier had settled into my innards like a visiting mother-in-law from Albuquerque, I discovered that a member of my friend’s entourage also moonlighted as a member of Barry Bonds’ legal team.
For readers of a foreign land, Barry Bonds is a baseball player who happens to suffer from the dangerous mixture of being both talented and black.
In the 1990s, the bigwigs of Major League Baseball were happy to sit on their coffers while perhaps half of all baseball players juiced themselves. They desperately needed home runs to make baseball more exciting.
(You see, attendance figures were down, as the players had previously gone on strike.)
Now, for some reason, perhaps not unrelated to the fact that he’s not so fond of various authority figures, various authority figures have decided to make him appear to be the only baseball player to have ever taken steroids.
And he has now been indicted because, so the claim goes, he lied to a Grand Jury about whether he had knowingly taken steroids.
As the Pond tends to hug the humorous side of life with a vengeance known only to the Old Testament, I will not dwell too much on the seriousness of this stinky little situation.
However, I offer you this snippet of gravity.
The member of Barry Bonds’ legal team I met last night has all the calm assurance of the female praying mantis during sex.
This member of Barry Bonds’ legal team appears extremely well aware of the subterranean machinations that have projected this indictment into the open air like intestinal gas from a sickly orang-utan.
And this member of Barry Bonds’ legal team seems to harbor a decency that various authority figures might find even more disconcerting than their being discovered in a Washington Madam’s Rolodex.
The second (half a) glass of Viognier made me think very long and hard about the supposed heroes of the Barry Bonds saga.
Specifically, Mark Fainaru-Wada. He is one of the two San Francisco Chronicle journalists who made their name by printing Barry Bonds’ grand jury testimony.
That would be his confidential grand jury testimony.
See, here’s what bothers me. Mr. Fainaru-Wada was shown this testimony by a lawyer. He knew that the lawyer was committing a crime by showing him this testimony.
I only know that the lawyer was committing a crime because he was, um, convicted of the crime.
So Mr. Fainaru-Wada was at the scene of a crime, knew a crime was being committed and turned a deaf ear (but not a blind eye) so that he could get a story that would, he hoped, make his name.
There was talk that he might have to go to jail for refusing to reveal his source. But then he produced an interesting defense.
Please forgive me if I heave a small sigh at this point.
But here was Mr. Fainaru-Wada’s defense for not revealing the lawyer’s name: “a 1996 Supreme Court ruling opened the door for federal judges to recognize a journalist’s right to protect confidential sources when the value of the reporting to the public outweighed any harm caused by the leak.”
The value of the reporting to the public. By exposing Barry Bonds’s confidential testimony, he was being a crusader on behalf of the American people. So it is your fault, dear readers of America, that Barry Bonds was hounded by this robbing hood.
He was only doing it for you.
Knowing whether Barry Bonds used steroids was very, very important to you. So important that it was worth disregarding the confidentiality of a Grand Jury. So important that it was worth a lawyer called Troy Ellerman going to jail.
A fabulously honorable defense, I think. (In fact, Mr. Ellerman’s name only came out allegedly because someone whom he had fired decided to reveal it.)
May I, at this point, offer a question:
Has Mark Fainaru-Wada, under the huge stresses of shouldering the American people’s burden every day, ever written a story under the influence of marijuana? (Come on, he works in San Francisco.)
Or, perhaps, has he made himself more alert, more, well, great, with a quick snort of Colombian Hopping Powder? Or has he needed to drink himself silly in order to make his words more accurate?
It is a simple fact that many employees of some of the most celebrated corporations in the world are users (with a tendency to addiction) of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. (Two of those are, as far as I can tell, illegal.) They see themselves as being under huge pressure all the time and they find that a visit to the bar or the bathroom gives them the necessary fillip to produce their supposed best in the hour of greatest need. (That would be need to them, not you.)
Here was this man, knowing that he was witnessing a crime, knowing that he was, in some sense, a participant in that crime, at his moment of greatest pressure. How can we be sure he was not under the influence of illegal substances? Did the San Francisco Chronicle drug test their employees? Or might there have been an uproar greater than the 1989 Earthquake if such a thing had been suggested? (Come on, he works in San Francisco.)
I think we have a right to know. Don’t you? We NEED to know.
Especially as Troy Ellerman gave a very interesting reason for leaking the documents. Cocaine and alcohol. Gosh, never.
If I waddled up, wet and bedraggled by Pond Scum and asked Mark Fainaru-Wada, would he tell me the truth? Or would I have to drag him off to a Grand Jury?
Perhaps we could get ESPN’s crack investigative team onto this issue.
They like to expose anything, um, juicy, in the world of sports. And, a couple of years ago, they ran a very flattering weekly half-hour show documenting the life of Barry Bonds. So maybe they’d do it.
Let’s see who they have as their unimpeachably upstanding investigative reporters.
Hey, they’ve hired a new guy.
Perhaps ESPN could test him tomorrow. And let us know the results.
If ever there was a case where half a glass was masquerading as a whole one, this is it.
Two glasses of Viognier, please.