Monday, August 6, 2007

Barry Bonds: The Most Hated Man In America

AvBro is on record as not being the biggest of baseball fans, but I, like maybe half the country, couldn't help but follow Barry Bonds recent quest to break Hank Aaron's all-time career home run record of 755. Depending on who you ask, Bond's quest for 755 is either a) the biggest travesty in sports since he more than likely has taken illegal substances at some point in the past or b) a momentous occasion, marking the eclipse of the most significant number in the most stats driven of all sports. This being America and all, whether a person thinks the former or latter seems to be sharply divided along racial lines, somewhat predictably. Over the weekend, Bonds tied Aaron's record with his 755th homer in San Diego, and he is poised to make it him own beginning with tonight's series versus my hometown Washington Nationals in San Fran.

Maybe because I'm no baseball purist, I simply can't see the logic of those hating on Bonds. If he did roid' up (which is certainly possible), then baseball's inability (or unwillingness) to prove this shows that they're wise enough to not look their gift horse in the mouth (this quest has been great for ratings and ticket sales), yet hypocritical enough to now distance themselves from him. Critics also seem to miss the fact that even if Bonds did roid' up for awhile, there's no doubting that his numbers before, and after supposedly doping are astounding in their own right. Instead, ever changing body size, a history of alienating ex-teammates, etc. These arguments are profoundly lacking in substance, and make the real issue quite clear: these critics just dislike Bonds as a person. Period.

Bonds 755th just happened to coincide with Alex Rodriguez' 500th career homer the same day, which combined with Bond's 1 week drought between 754 and 755 and west coast time slot, somewhat took a bit of luster off the accomplishment. I even heard columnist Mike Lupica say that this was "karma", suggesting that God was repaying Bonds for his past indiscretions by overshadowing his record setting performance with another record setting performance by a guy likely to eclipse his very record 10 years or so from now.

While that is indeed ironic, I can't help but think of one word for Mike Lupica and the like: haters.

Oh yeah, and racists too!

Let's face it, baseball is America's pastime, and a sport filled with a history of race related incidents that have mirrored society as a whole. From the blatantly racist Ty Cobb, the racially ambiguous Babe Ruth (black or not?), the separatist nature that fueled the Negro Leagues, to the fact that Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier is such a huge part of the sport's legacy, baseball, perhaps more than any American institution, cannot separate itself from its past. Some of the very same critics who abhor Bonds breaking Aaron's record fail to recall that a huge segment of America didn't want Aaron breaking Ruth's record either. Revisionist history will tell you otherwise, and I know times are certainly different, but hearing Bonds booed unmercifully and crucified in the press week after week has to be the modern day equivalent of the death threats that Aaron received.

Perhaps this is why blacks are overwhelmingly behind Bonds in his chase for the record, while white America feels the polar opposite. And as I've opined in the past, this is what makes Bonds the single most hated man in America today. Yes, even more than Bush.

I know this much, I'll be watching this next series vs the Nats, hoping and rooting for Barry to shatter the record with a groggy AvgBaby (Daddy, it's 11:30, can I go to bed?) on my lap, waiting for history to be written. The books may one day say otherwise, but Bonds is a hero in my eyes.

Jackie Robinson is crying inside.

Bonds Hits 755th Video [YouTube]
Chris Rock vs Bob Costas on Bonds [AOL]

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