"What do I care what they do?"
"When you come up with the truth, then write your [expletive]. Until then, shut up."
Throwing down the gauntlet to a pitcher is pride. Throwing down the gauntlet to society -- criminal investigators, the judiciary, media and by extension the public -- is the kind of hubris that keeps all those old Greek plays in print. The pride that drives the rise is the pride, gone to excess, that precipitates the fall. Those whom the gods would destroy they first make great.
As Bonds's troubles mount, and he faces his final decision about whether to chase 755 amid a tornado of controversy, investigations and recriminations, his deepest issues have come to the surface. Last summer, out of the blue, he said, "Just because my dad . . . was an alcoholic, does that mean I was [drinking] with him? My brother does drugs, he's recovering, but he's still my brother and I love him to death. But am I going with my brother, doing drugs?" Until then, a generation of baseball people had kept Bobby Bonds's drinking problems private. As for a brother, how many even knew he had one?
Barry's mainspring has always been his complex relationship with Bobby. The elder Bonds, a star with 332 homers, played for eight teams in his last eight seasons, often switching clubs amid malicious rumors or vague criticism. At the time, Barry was ages 10 to 17. Imagine the hostility and distrust such an experience sows in a child. Then Barry conquered the same sport that had chewed up his dad -- with Bobby as his batting coach. Dr. Freud, check your Blackberry.
On Tuesday, the threads of the long, sad Bonds story seemed to weave themselves into what may be the first premonition of an ending. Before he answered questions, Bonds looked at the camera and said, "Can you get my son in this, too, not just me, so you guys can share the pain that you are causing my whole family?" The camera obligingly panned wider.
There was Nikolai, 15, heir to the bitterest tradition of glory in baseball history.
"Me and my son are going to try to enjoy each other," said Bonds. "That's all we've got. Everybody else has tried to destroy everything else." Then, turning to his boy, he said, "Let's go home."
They walked off camera together. You couldn't script it better. Or worse. All that was missing was, "The End."