Hall of Fame needs to rethink accepting asterisk ball   

Updated: November 13, 2007, 12:51 PM ET

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It's been more than a year and a half since "Game of Shadows," the blockbuster book from Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams that details Barry Bonds' alleged steroids use, was released. And you know what's been evident since the book was published and, really, since Fainaru-Wada and Williams broke the BALCO case wide open?

Barry Bonds

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's unfair for the Hall of Fame to make Barry Bonds the face of the steroids era.

Bonds is the only person you can trust.

You can trust Bonds' defiance, arrogance, and certainly, his talent. You can trust that Bonds really doesn't give a flying bat what we think of him or whether we -- the media, fans or baseball -- believe he knowingly or unknowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.

He reiterated his feelings a week or so ago, when he promised to boycott the Hall of Fame if it accepts his historic 756th home run ball with an asterisk.

Too bad everyone else isn't so easy to read.

The ones who don't quite pass the sniff test are those who feign concern about the public's interest, but secretly peddle their own agenda.

Which brings me to graffiti artist-turned-fashion designer Marc Ecko, owner of Bonds' historic home run ball.

Ecko cleverly fooled people into thinking the only reason he is giving the HOF the ball with an asterisk attached is because that's what the people wanted.

But trust me, he didn't purchase the ball for $752,467 in an online auction out of principle or love for the common opinion. It was an investment.

Most people didn't know who Ecko was before he purchased the ball, and certainly most would not remember him had he not formulated a masterful marketing plan that allowed fans go to his Web site and vote on what he should do with the ball. Big shock: Fans overwhelmingly decided he should put an asterisk on the ball before giving it to the HOF.

Ecko is just a fashion designer striving to regain relevancy, and this is only one of many harebrained schemes he's employed. According to noted sports blogger D.K. Wilson of Sports On My Mind, Ecko has faked graffiti jobs on Air Force One and an undisclosed military base all for the sake of boosting his popularity (you can find the videos on YouTube).

In fact, if you go to Ecko's Web site, you'll notice the asterisk is a part of his brand. How convenient. It's also interesting that Ecko's clothing line is immensely popular among African-Americans, but he has no problem plotting to discredit a black athlete whom the majority of African-Americans support.

Ecko's marketing savvy comes as no surprise, but that the Hall is willingly allowing itself to be pimped, is.

For the record, I believe Bonds took steroids and knew exactly what he was doing when he did it. I believe he dishonored his talent and his legacy, acting out of jealousy of Mark McGwire when McGwire wasn't a tenth of the player he was -- home runs or not. Still, the federal government's repeated attempts to nail Bonds are a waste of taxpayer money and an abuse of power. And given the numerous reports of various players obtaining human growth hormone, it appears Bonds was merely a fish in a sea of cheaters.

But that isn't the real issue. The issue is history is being manipulated for personal gain, so that an artist can pull off the ultimate tag -- the sullying of a historic home run ball.

You would think the HOF would be appalled by this, but it seems eager to be used, foolishly believing having the ball outweighs the contamination of history. It sounds like a mistress excited because her married man spends Columbus Day with her instead of Christmas.

"We don't believe in defacing artifacts," said Jeff Idelson, the HOF's vice president for communications and education. "In this one instance, we're willing to look beyond it."

What will the HOF do if the feds never gain enough evidence to file charges against Bonds? Use Wite-Out to cover up the asterisk? The HOF's job is to preserve historical artifacts, and right now, no one has proved that Bonds took performance enhancers.

Think of the dangerous precedent this sets. Does that mean if P Diddy gets his hands on the next record-setting home run ball he can stamp "Sean John" on it before turning it in? Would the Hall be willing to accept a historic Ty Cobb cap with the word "racist" written on it? Would the Hall accept a historic Mickey Mantle uniform that says "alcoholic," "bad father" and "prescription painkiller addict"?

Idelson told me the defamed ball would allow the Hall to deal with the steroids era, but how is that possible? The issue hasn't even completely uncoiled. We still don't know who did what, for how long, or what effect it really had. And the problem is that this ball unfairly paints Bonds as the sole face of performance-enhancing drug use, when we know that's far from the truth. The bat Mark McGwire used to hit his 70th home run sits in the Hall, but I don't hear anyone suggesting a tape of his shameful performance before Congress run next to that display case. If Sammy Sosa lands in the Hall at some point, will there be a placard explaining that he magically forgot how to speak English when lawmakers questioned him about steroids?

History is about what is, not what we want it to be or what we think is true. Gut instincts may tell us Bonds was a willing participant in the steroids era, but the fact is he's never been caught red-handed. And unless the feds are planning some unimaginable torture of Greg Anderson, we may never know more about Bonds' alleged usage than we do today.

If the HOF accepts Ecko's ball, Bonds should boycott and has every right to be upset. None of us can rewrite history, so what makes Ecko think he's any different?

Page 2 columnist Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.


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