updated 4/5/2006 6:22:34 PM ET 2006-04-05T22:22:34

The baseball season is barely 48 hours old and already a tradition has been overturned.  Instead of the throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday night, there was the throwing out of the ceremonial first syringe.

A syringe was thrown near Bonds during the opening game in San Diego.  The syringe without a needle, we should mention.  The fans may be angrier than the reporters are.  On opening night, in San Diego, Bonds swatted a double and the first pitch he saw on the season. Then things seemed to go downhill.

Fans, some subdued yet still creative, held up various disparaging signs, among them they read “Baroid,” “Hank Hero, Barry Zero,” referring to Barry Bonds' race to reach Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs.  And “Cheaters Never Prosper”.

In the eighth inning, a Bonds naysayer stood up and chucked a syringe onto the field.

The bewildered Bonds picked it up and said, “put it off the field so no one would get hurt.”

A senior baseball writer from “USA Today,” Bob Nightengale ,was at the Padres-Giants opener and joined Keith Olbermann to discuss the coming season.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, "COUNTDOWN":  It's only one night and maybe unfair to judge based on that, but does it seem the fans are more opinionated about Bonds now then at any point since this Balco steroid scandal started in 2004?

BOB NIGHTENGALE, “USA TODAY”:   Very much so.  Probably because he is so close to Ruth.  It's like people don't want him to break Ruth's record, even though it is second place, and they certainly don't want him to break Hank Aaron's record.

OLBERMANN:  We hear often in some cases in defense of Barry Bonds, that sports fans don't care about stuff like this.  They want to see the home runs and use the great line from the pitching coach Johnny Sain, "Nobody wants to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby."  Is Barry Bonds inadvertently disproving this?  Is the fan more cognizant now than he was before?

NIGHTENGALE:  I think so just because he is so close to some records.  And nobody seems to mind in '98 with McGwire and Sosa going for the record and breaking Maris' mark, but they care now.  And he is getting the brunt of all of it.  Never mind the couple hundred of other guys who have used stuff.

OLBERMANN:  The disparity between the reactions both baseball and from the fans between 1998 and 2006, is that a lesson learned because everybody let Mark McGwire get away with whatever he got away with it or is that people assumed nefarious reasons for the reactions, including racism, including the Babe Ruth factor?  What do you attribute the two different responses to?

NIGHTENGALE:  I think a lot of it, the Balco, some personality and some racism, he is still giving plenty of racist letters now more than ever.  Without the Balco investigation, maybe none of this stuff would have ever come out.

OLBERMANN:  As to Barry Bonds himself, the quote after the game about the syringe incident was, “If they want to embarrass themselves like that,” referring to the fans, is he really in that kind of state of denial about what's going on?  Does he think that the fans are embarrassing themselves?

NIGHTENGALE:  He does.  This guy is so focused, it's like he is treating this think like he is getting a $20 parking ticket.  Just kind of blowing it off.  He will look around the stands and listen to people taunting him and just shrugs it off.  It's almost like he feeds off the stuff, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Do you suppose and we are very being speculative about that, but do you think he thinks last night was kind of a one-shot deal and this is somehow going to die down as the season goes along?

NIGHTENGALE:  No.  I don't think so.  If they are acting like this in San Diego, imagine when he goes back East.  So it was bad, but it wasn't horrible.  It wasn't as bad as New York with John Rocker when he went back there the first time.

OLBERMANN:  Or even in Los Angeles when they went out and mooned him.  The general reaction though, and speaking of Los Angeles, within baseball, the season is now a tangible thing.  We are now seeing the race against time that involves Bonds and the home run record and the condition of Bonds' knees and the George Mitchell investigation.  It's like four track runners out there.  I was surprised to see the immortal announcer of the Dodgers, Vin Scully, actually say that he hopes Bonds does not pass Ruth or Aaron while playing against the Dodgers because it would be an awkward moment and he would rather have that awkward moment happen to someone else.

When Vin Scully says that, one of the most positive, even handed, respected people in the world let alone just in baseball, when he said something like that, is it over for Barry Bonds in the court of opinion?  Is he already finished?

NIGHTENGALE:  Yeah.  I think no matter what happens with Major League Baseball's investigation, people are convinced he used steroids.  Just because he got big.  The bottom line is we don't have person who came out and said we have seen Bonds use steroids or injected Bonds themselves.  But yeah, I don't think anybody will be convinced that he didn't cheat.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks for your time, Bob.

NIGHTENGALE:  Thanks, Keith.


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