Friday, April 1, 2011

Call Me Ishmael

As I keep an eye and ear toward that Great American Sports Law Extravaganza known as The United States of America v. Barry Bonds, I happen to also be reading that Great American Novel Moby Dick. Their similarities are remarkable.

Bonds, the all-time greatest in that most American of all sports, is that Great White Whale, larger than life, mysterious, unknowable, “all that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy . . . visibly personified, and made practically assailable.”

Jeff Novitzky, of course is Ahab. He has pursued Bonds for seven long years. The quest began with the former IRS agent trolling in the trash bins of BALCO, looking for scraps of paper to make his case. Ultimately, his mates at the prosecutor’s office impaneled a grand jury at which Barry Bonds was called to testify and swore he did not know what BALCO products his trainer Greg Anderson had given him and that, to his recollection, no one other than a doctor had ever injected him with anything. Of the 42 counts in the indictment returned against BALCO’s owner, Victor Conte, 40 were dismissed. In the end, Conte was convicted of money laundering about $400 and spent three months in a federal summer camp. Yet Novitzky and the prosecutors carried on, consumed and obsessed with Bonds. “They piled upon him the sum of all the general rage and hate felt from Adam down. . .” Towards Bonds they “roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering . . . to the last they grapple with thee; from hell's heart they stab at thee; for hate's sake they spit their last breath at thee,” and waste millions of tax-payer dollars.

What the judge and jury, presumably nay all San Francisco Giant fans, will make of this mad pursuit is not yet known. “Who’s to doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar?”