Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Barry Bonds really got savaged over the weekend in Philadelphia, even as he hit home run #713 on Sunday, moving him to within one of Babe Ruth and only 42 away from Hank Aaron. Here are two of my favorite signs:

"Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer. Aaron did it with class. How did YOU do it?"

and from a clever fan in left field:

"Hey Barry. Move your head. We can't see."

Bonds pursuit of Ruth and Aaron leaves me feeling sad more than anything. A serious challenge to the home run record is literally a once in a generation event. It was nearly 40 years between Ruth's retirement in 1935 and Aaron hitting homer 715 in 1974. Now it has been 30 years since Hammerin' Hank retired. It has been that long since anyone seriously challenged the home run record.

The problem is that Bonds pursuit is so tainted by the steroids allegations that I find myself rooting against him. I hope he won't pass Ruth (although that seems futile) and I really don't want him to pass Aaron. I feel cheated that I can't feel some of the excitement I felt when I was watched Aaron hit his record breaking home run on TV when I was 10 years old. Bonds cheating has rendered what should be an exciting and joyful chase into something depressing. If Bonds had done this fairly, the first thing I would be wondering in the morning was whether he had hit a home run the night before. Instead, I find myself not really caring.

What I really want to experience is what I felt in 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris. Of course, now I know they were just as steroid powered as Bonds, but I didn't know it at the time.

One of the big questions that has been raised is whether race is a part of all this. It would be naive to think that there is no one actively rooting against Bonds because he is an African-American. However, I believe that the vast majority of baseball fans don't like Bonds because (a) he is a cheater and (b) he is just not a nice guy. I think that I would be reacting the same way if McGwire or any other steroid enhanced white slugger was going after homer #755.


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