Barry Lamar Bonds finally hit his first home run of the season on Saturday afternoon in Colorado – and there’s a lot about that statement that’s interesting. First, the whole deal with using someone’s middle name is to add extra meaning to a sentence. Second is the fact that Barry Lamar Bonds, the best player of the era and a probable juicer, is closing in on the lifetime home run record of some old-timer named George Herman Ruth, Jr. See what I mean, about how using the complete name gives a ridiculous amount of dramatic tone to the sentence? That’s the problem with this whole thing: It has been blown out of proportion.
This is an unresolved issue with American sports and with baseball in particular. In this country, sports have been defined by the supposed Golden Age in the 1920s, when baseball became America’s pastime and Babe Ruth was its principle figure. Baseball is also the only sport with statistics that always tell you something significant about the game – each and every game. Based on that fact, people believe that with baseball you can reasonably compare different periods, making the records and numbers of the past take on significance in present.
The myth of the Babe? It isn’t as mystical as the stories would have you believe. Well, he played 75 years ago when America and sports were segregated. He had terrible form – any little leaguer can point it out – he stepped into every pitch. Thus, his record of 714 homeruns has unnecessarily become so much more than a number. America has become addicted to its myths, just as rural America has become addicted to meth, and the myth has become a common understanding.
I decided to check all the hubbub out for myself and went down to Dodger Stadium last week, just like any red-blooded UCSB Giants fan probably felt they should have. It’s springtime and that means baseball, and, as any National League fan knows, Giants-Dodgers is baseball. When a flying Dodger Dog hit in me in the neck as I headed for my seat, I was ready for some on-field action to distract my “friends” sitting around me.
Nothing says welcome to Chavez Ravine like getting verbally slapped in unison by the hometown fans. Dodger Stadium got off to a quick start, firing up the “Barry Sucks!” chant right there in the bottom of the first. When he came up in the top of the second, they decided to stick with what was working, with more “Barry Sucks!” chanting. Lack of creativity was not important; what was key was the resolve of the Dodger faithful. It was the type of consistency you respect from the best bullpens in the game. The Bonds chants even overshadowed Jeff Kent getting hit in the head, and the Dodgers retaliating by hitting Bonds in the back. Bashing Bonds has become bigger than the game, even when the game involves Bonds.
Bonds Watch is a national phenomenon of the sports world that has gained more media attention than our clandestine war with Iran. Barry Bonds has been getting a worse rap than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – no middle name necessary on that puppy. The problem is that the idea of Babe Ruth and the idea of Bonds are threatening to the America public and its white media. There is a tradition of Congressional intervention into the lives of controversial black sports figures, such as Mohammed Ali, and now they want to look into Bonds’s testimony. In addition, there is evidence the federal prosecutors specifically targeted Bonds.
Is it because Bonds is black? Why is it that everybody has decided that it isn’t? Then again, drugs are drugs, and Bonds has had a competitive advantage over everybody from Derek Jeter to Marvin Bernard. Oh, I think even Bernard juiced.
The thing is, Bonds has always said that the last game he played in was in college. Baseball is a business, not a game, and Bonds has earned about $200 million in salary in that business. Character smaracter, I used to joke with my friends. Bonds is on pace for two home runs and one RBI, and the people who run these numbers are the same people who try to circumvent them. Bonds is the reason that the Giants have been competitive, and have only played 20 meaningless games since 1997. And that is why he has been paid.