Saturday, August 4, 2007

Baseball's Shame

Barry Bonds is a liar, a cheat and a complete asshole. And I'm rooting for him to break Hank Aaron's home run record.

I find it hypocritical the way the fans, media and league treat the sport of baseball. It's time people get back to reality and realize that baseball is not a victim, and that Barry Bonds is not some sort of predator. Following the 1994 strike, all elements of the baseball world looked the other way when a sudden onslaught of power hitting became evident. Anyone remember Baltimore Oriole Brady Anderson? In 1996, Anderson, who averaged about 10-15 HRs a season put up an inexplicable 50 homers that year (and over the next six years of his career, Anderson only managed to hit more than 20 home runs once more). But a guy like Anderson is a quaint example of the more notorious power hitters that came through the late 1990s to reignite fan interest in the floundering game. The great race to break Roger Maris' 61 home runs in a single season was a marketing boon for Commissioner Bud Selig and the league. Come see history being made, we were told. Don't mind the fact that these formerly lanky hitters now look like water balloons. Hey Mark McGwire, can you help us sell some Big Macs?

What makes Barry Bonds' looming record any different? Have we "wised-up" that much in the last ten years? Or do we all feel guilty for looking the other way when it seemed like everyone was touching all four bases on a regular basis? There is a great deal of acrimony that is still left over from the '94 strike-- both between the fans and the game and within the game itself. I fear that the media backlash against Barry Bonds is another chapter in the long-running PR war between the league and the player's union. And the player's union really can't call it what it is, because they will look like they're defending the "villainous" Bonds, who is the whipping boy du jour.

Is Barry Bonds a good guy? Absolutely not. But I look at him as a modern-day Frankenstein. We marveled at his creation and his abilities when he first became "superhuman" but then we felt ashamed of him, and we turned those negative feelings away from ourselves and pointed them directly on Bonds. And that shifting of blame is a serious distortion of the truth. Bonds was an inevitability. When the game looks the other way for so long, allowing (if not implicitly encouraging) the use of performance-enhancing substances to boost the spectacle of the game, Barry Bonds was within his rights to choose to cheat. He owns personal responsibility for knowingly taking these substances and lying about them after the fact. He is, in truth, a coward. But to say that Bonds is ruining the home run record, and by extension, the game itself is an inaccurate indictment of the man. The game failed to protect itself-- from the commissioner, to the team owners, general managers, all the way down to the players and fans. We all willingly averted our eyes from the truth, and now that Bonds' ascension to all-time home run greatness is happening, we cannot ignore it any further.

So, I will cheer Bonds when he crosses home plate on his 755th home run (to tie Hank Aaron) and I will stand up and do a white-guy fist-pump when he sends his 756th home run over the fence as well. Think about it: what better way to memorialize the greatest hypocrisy to ever envelope the game than to have Bonds take hold of the home run record? Lest the game never forget that it sold its soul after the strike to make billions all over again. We all need to share in that feeling of shame. Hopefully that will force us to take better care of the game in the future.

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sideshow bob said...

I dunno...I kind of hope that as the fireworks are going off, when they put up the big 756 on the Jumbotron, there's a little asterisk next to it.

But I certainly agree that Bonds oughtn't bear the brunt of the savagery of the fans and sport media for this...if it weren't him, it'd have been some other jacked up freak. The ultimate responsibility rests with the League and the Union that ignored, and even profited from, cheating.

Rickey Henderson said...

Well done Adam--nicely stated. Rickey never understood all the venom directed at Barry Bonds either. We're all complicit in this whole debacle, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness of it all.

Look, when you're the son of Bobby Bonds, you're going to feel a little pressure to live up to expectations, right? So he turned himself into a large angry bull. Makes sense. Rickey almost feels bad for the poor guy.