The biggest question remains: Will he or won't he?

Originally Published: July 19, 2006
By Wright Thompson | ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds sat in front of his locker, watching The Tyra Banks Show on his personal television. He tapped his foot along to Bobby Brown, smiling as the singer crooned: Everybody's talking all this stuff about me. Why don't they just let me live?

It was a first cousin of normal. People laughed uneasily, willing to play along with the charade for the moment, as if this was just another ballplayer, enjoying some bad television.

Then someone asked about the indictment. Ah, the indictment. Back to reality. Bonds scowled a bit.

"Is that why you guys are here?" he asked.

He tried to look relaxed, as if the possibility of being indicted on Thursday for tax evasion and perjury didn't bother him. His play suggests he's as calm as he appears. He started the ninth-inning, game-winning rally Wednesday afternoon with a single against Brewers flame-thrower Derrick Turnbow. Maybe his lawyers are right. One of his attorneys, Laura Enos, said in an e-mail that they didn't expect an indictment.

But if he is calm, he's the only one. The rest of San Francisco is aflutter, an entire city asking: Will he or won't he?

It seems like everyone in town knows that, at 450 Golden Gate Avenue tomorrow, on the 17th floor, 23 normal citizens will decide the future of the best baseball player of his generation. Walk into local lunch spot Henry's Hunan and, soon enough, the conversation will drift from Hezbollah to Bonds. Get into a taxi, and the driver will offer his opinion.

"I have people in my cab who are like, 'I can't believe they're going after Barry Bonds like that,'" a cabbie named Brian said Tuesday night. "He's loved here. It's pretty bizarre."

The facts are familiar by the Bay: Bonds allegedly told a federal grand jury that he didn't knowingly use steroids, and now, after testimony of a former friend and a former lover, as well as the damning book "Game of Shadows," it seems that the U.S. Attorney might be able to prove that the slugger lied on the stand. There are also allegations that Bonds didn't pay taxes on income from autographs.

About the only people not blabbering endlessly about the legal problems, at least publicly, are the Giants themselves. Bonds himself shut down a brief question-and-answer period on Wednesday when no one wanted to talk about the game. His teammates didn't look eager, either. The past few years have left them weary.

"I'm not talking about Barry," Ray Durham said.

That was it. The clubhouse emptied, one more time. San Francisco has waited almost three years, through the first brush of BALCO, through a series of indictments, prison terms and now, a second grand jury. They may finally learn Thursday if one of the most popular athletes in the town's history will stand trial.

And Bonds? He kept his poker face on, walking down the white cinder block halls beneath the stadium with his son. The next time he walks those halls, his entire life might be different.

Bonds towered above the schools of stadium workers wrapping up one game and prepping for another. Some stopped and looked at him, their stares seeming to ask the same question the media had just asked: how can you act so calm?

He didn't answer, of course.

He just got into his shiny white BMW, with the black windows that allow him to hide, and took a right onto King Street. Thursday, like the rest of the city that shrank in his rearview mirror, he'll likely learn how his story ends.

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and can be reached at wrightespn@gmail.com.

Wright Thompson | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) is a senior writer for ESPN.com and The Magazine. He has been featured in seven editions of Best American Sports Writing and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.