ON BARRY BONDS, THE MEDIA AND HIS QUEST FOR 755
Rarely has a sport’s dominant player made the game look so easy and natural. Michael Jordan made basketball look easy; Tiger Woods’ stroke makes golf look like a sport that anyone can master and Mario Lemieux’s heroics made hockey seem like a child’s game. Barry Bonds is at that level; The man hits "four-baggers" left and right, effortlessly and without breaking a sweat.
As of today, in his 21st season as a major leaguer, Bonds is 11 homers shy of breaking what many thought would be an impossible record: Hank Aaron’s 755. As usual, there’s all sorts of rumors and speculations about Bonds, about his natural ability and his supposed usage of steroids in the midst of his career. This is a fact that has been heavily debated, but never proven, yet it has definitively made an impact on how Bonds is viewed by the fans across the globe. Besides being great within the lines of the baseball diamond, Bonds reputation among his peers remains that of being a jerk.
That I knew, or at least I had heard of, but I never fully understood why.
Take this into account: When your Dad is Bobby Bonds and your Godfather is Willie Mays, both legends of the game, it puts a great deal of pressure on you to fill those shoes. Add the fact that your cousin is Reggie Jackson and that only raises the stakes. You have to constantly try to perform at a top level regardless of what level you’re at. As if there wasn’t enough revolving around a young Bonds orbit already, throw into the mix that he was a gifted athlete since he first laid his hands on piece of lumber and that will definitively make some people not like you off the bat, no matter how hard you try and just because. With that kind of pressure and hating, anyone is susceptible to developing a stack of chips on their shoulder, possibly as a defense mechanism. Is it any wonder that Barry Bonds acts like Barry Bonds? Woudn’t you?
A lot has been said about Bonds, much has been argued and books have been written about him such as Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero by former Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Pearlman. This is a book on Bond’s life from all angles. The whole steroid scandal, his youth and how he’s dealt with fame with both fans and teammates. Through the read, one would agree that Bonds hasn’t behaved well in most cases and is often described as a person lacking social skills, but it also breaks down why he’s been one of the game’s greatest and why it is that his routine of harsh winter workouts has made him a legend among other athletes.
The bottom line is this, everybody agrees he’s great, yet, it is his personality what people can’t stand.
Now the media is getting in the racially divisive mix, by running polls about Bonds’ popularity and how the baseball community is embracing him as the new lifetime Home Run King. For instance, "ABC News and ESPN poll findings show that 37 percent of respondents said they are rooting for Barry Bonds to break Hank Aaron’s home-run record, while 52 percent said they hope he falls short and 11 percent had no opinion. Twenty-eight percent of whites and nearly 75 percent of blacks said they were hoping Bonds succeeds." according to the Associate Press.
Now I wonder, is this the moment to run such polls? Hasn’t his run at 755 earned him enough respect? Why is baseball’s commissioner Bud Selig saying that he won’t attend Bonds’ record breaking game and honor him as he should? Has this become personal all of the sudden?
Speaking to fellow baseball fans, I say this, I’ve gathered the fact that it is Bonds breaking that mark that has really dis-interested them in following his race towards the 755 mark, which I understand, just as much as I understand that records like these are not broken everyday. And by this I mean that perhaps, if we are lucky, we will get to see someone else break this record again in 10 years or so.
That’s a long time. Even for your average bitter baseball fan.
Why not take the time to admire this hitter for what he really is, the most feared hitter with a baseball bat (Damn, I saw him walked intentionally to open an inning). In the end, why should anyone care about who Bonds the person is…chances of meeting him are so tiny, that it really doesn’t affect me, or the millions watching on TV. Bonds is 10 homers short of cementing his name at the top for ages to come and I’m really looking forward to it, which is why I ask the question question:
Is hating this man reason enough not to celebrate one of the biggest achievements in sports that we’ll ever see in our lifetime?