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Leaving a legacy

Sports | What will Barry Bonds tell his Hall of Fame audience?

Issue: "Minority report," Aug. 11, 2007

Chances are that someday San Francisco left fielder Barry Bonds will join Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn in Cooperstown, N.Y. Despite the guffaws of many sportswriters who have pledged to keep Bonds off their Baseball Hall of Fame voting ballots because of steroids allegations, the outfielder's enshrinement seems as eventual as his chances of breaking Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. On July 29-the same day Ripken and Gwynn delivered their Hall of Fame acceptance speeches-Bonds stood just one home run short of tying one of sports' most beloved records.

Imagine that day in the future when Bonds walks to the podium and begins his acceptance speech. Will he thank his trainer, Greg Anderson, who, according to leaked grand jury testimony, helped Bonds acquire undetectable anabolic drugs known as the "cream" and the "clear" and has spent months in prison rather than testify against Bonds?

Will the notably surly slugger reflect on his baseball career with the same perspective as Ripken? "I thought I had it all figured out, I would play big league baseball until about 45 and then worry about the rest of my life after that," Ripken admitted to the Cooperstown crowd. "I realized that the secret of life is life, and a bigger picture came into focus. Games were and are important, but people and how you impact on them are most important."

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How will Bonds explain how his admitted steroid usage in pursuit of seemingly unbreakable records and his centerpiece role in baseball's steroids scandal impacted people-especially impressionable teenage athletes who take their cues from pro athletes like Bonds? Stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point to an alarming trend.

As the public becomes more aware of the proliferation of steroids inside professional sports, the number of high-school athletes experimenting with anabolic steroids has increased too. The most recent CDC figures, from a 2005 survey, indicated 4.8 percent of high-school males had taken steroid pills or shots without a doctor's orders. A look inside the numbers indicated that freshmen (4.7 percent) and sophomores (5.2 percent) from that year were even more willing than their older classmates to dabble in anabolic aides.

Beyond the home run record, Bonds' legacy might be most tangible on the bathroom countertops of high-school athletes where legal, but not rigorously studied, performance enhancers like whey protein powder and creatine are often enough just as common as Axe body spray and acne cream. If professional sports' steroid scandals have taught young athletes anything, it's that the pursuit of on-field success merits unethical or risky behavior.

Around the Horn

NFL: Bad news for embattled Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick: One of his friends has rolled over for authorities. Tony Taylor pleaded guilty to dog-fighting charges on July 30 in Virginia, where federal prosecutors have been building a case against Taylor, Vick, and two other co-defendants accused of sponsoring dog-fighting bouts on Vick's Virginia property. In the agreement, Taylor promised to fully cooperate and testify against Vick and the other co-defendants. The legal trouble for Vick has grown from minor inconvenience to major problem for the NFL star. Now, amidst loud and angry public outcries, Vick has been told by the NFL to stay away from the Falcons training camp until the league completes its own investigation. And while the club plans to suspend Vick for four games (the maximum allowed under league rules), many believe Vick will be forced by the league to sit out the season.

NFL: Bill Walsh, the coach whose West Coast offense helped revolutionize professional football in the 1980s, died July 30 at his home in Woodside, Calif., after a three-year battle with leukemia. He was 75. Nicknamed "The Genius" for his inventive offensive strategy, Walsh coached the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl wins during the 1981, 1984, and 1988 seasons. But perhaps more impressive than his on-field resumé was his ability to groom a lineage of coaches that included George Seifert, Dennis Green, Sam Wyche, Mike Holmgren, and Jim Fassel.


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