Who Cares About Barry Bonds?
Wednesday - May 16, 2007
It should be only a matter of days before Barry Bonds breaks sports’ greatest record, and I don’t care. Given my preference, I would rather not see him surpass the mark established by one who not only battled big league pitchers but big-time racism and death threats just for having the audacity to play up to his abilities. But since baseball doesn’t care, why should I? Or anyone else, for that matter.
Years ago the game had sold its soul for the sake of ticket sales and TV ratings, and it can’t go back. Unfortunately, it also refuses to go forward.
The NFL, not exactly the league of extraordinary gentlemen, has finally decided that it can no longer follow lock step with one another to protect those who bring down their sport. Players and their union, tired of being lumped together with criminals and shady characters, are supporting the league and are taking a stand. Our national pastime has no such collective conscience, save for the one that guards self-interest and hammers anyone who dares to cross the thin blue line.
David Ortiz says he doubts whether Bonds took anything illegal and if he did, whether or not such additives would actually help.
A few days later, Curt Schilling tells WEEI radio that Bonds does not deserve to break the record. A quick chewing out by his manager and Schilling is falling all over himself to apologize. Baseball’s code of silence doesn’t even end at the locker room. Mike Krukow, one of the Giants’ radio announcers, called Schilling a blowhard and an idiot. My kingdom for an honest man.
Hank Aaron has taken hits for saying he won’t be at the game where Bonds breaks his mark. His statement is a quiet yet direct stand against the illegal practices that the league silently authorized for more than 10 years. Bud Selig, Aaron’s longtime friend, has only said that baseball will do what is appropriate, and most recently that he is unsure if he will attend. Selig can wag any implied finger of shame that he cares to, but any real statements against Bonds would be laughably hypocritical coming from the man who in a 1995 interview talked about executives meeting on the subject of steroids more than a year prior. Then again, not even Aaron is above blame.
As the vice president of player development for the Atlanta Braves, he was in a position to do something about the problem. As the holder of the record and maybe the greatest living ballplayer, he had the clout and access to decision-makers on both sides. Aaron didn’t take advantage of his position. No one did.
Years ago this mark would have meant an awful lot. As one who as a youth would recalculate the stats on baseball cards just for the fun of diving into the numbers, 755 was biggest and most glorious. Hidden among the numbers was the code to the past that allowed baseball fans to compare eras and athletes. We didn’t even need explanations. Just say 755, 4,121, 511, 56 and fans immediately know what the number stands for and who achieved the mark. Now that’s pretty much gone with the ongoing offensive explosion resulting from performance enhancers, legal and otherwise, and pampered, inadequate pitching.
If I’m in a position to turn on the TV or flip channels to see the record fall, then I probably will. I won’t tape it, or if it takes any real effort I’ll most likely pass on the occasion - not as a matter of protest, but because it’s difficult to get worked up over a tainted event where those entrusted with maintaining its integrity have long ago turned their heads.
I don’t hate baseball. I’ll still root for my favorites, cheer athletic excellence and begin most mornings conversing about what happened the night before. But, really, it’s nothing more than just great entertainment. Yes, I want to see the Tigers return to the World Series, but I won’t lose any sleep if they don’t.
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