Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hypocrisy and Homers--Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds has finally broken Hank Aaron's home run record. Without a doubt it is one of the more impressive records in baseball. But, it goes without saying that a long shadow has been cast over Barry Bonds record. As Bonds moved towards the record, he was constantly hounded by death threats, accusations of being a "cheater," and assurances that his record should not be taken seriously. All of this due to his alleged steroid use as documented by Sports Illustrated and a couple of scathing biographies (Love Me, Hate Me by Jeff Perlman and Game of Shadows by Williams and Fainaru-Wada).

Although I can't consider myself a Barry Bonds fan, I found myself repulsed by the public's and Major League Baseball's reaction to his record chase. It is one thing to heckle opponents, and it is certainly part of the game. Even to scream "Bonds you, suck," when he is arguably the best player to suit up in the past 10 years, I can tolerate. But to single out Bonds for such vituperative ire and to assert that Bonds' record shouldn't count because he used steroids is silly and hypocritical. The same fans that are booing Bonds didn't seem to have a problem rooting for Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and any number of lesser players who, with as much certainty, (meaning that none of them, including Bonds, ever failed a drug test) used steroids. These fans didn't have any problem watching balls zing out of the park throughout the 1990s and cheering accordingly. And to argue that Barry's record isn't "fair"--what about all the records that were made before the game was racially integrated? Are they fair? What about all the World Series that were won with players on steroids? Do we take them away as well?

The reality is that steroids was an institutional problem in baseball throughout the 1990s and early 2000s and everyone who was paying attention knew it. But no one did anything. Now, all of a sudden, baseball is claiming purity and offering Barry Bonds as a sacrificial lamb to the public. It is Barry's fault, not ours. But again, such is hypocrisy.

Bonds has never been a media darling, but he has done a remarkable job of handling this bad situation with some class. So enjoy it while you can Barry.

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