I make every attempt to put my distaste for certain athletes in perspective. I’ll be the first to admit that my dislike for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the early 90’s was solely based on the fact that they dethroned the Bad Boys. I despised them with all of the childhood hate I could muster up. Likewise, my rage against the Notre Dame leprechaun was uncontrollable and purely childish. I honestly think that seeing that leprechaun suffer pain would’ve made me happy. Flash forward 15 years and I can see that those thoughts would be irrational and irresponsible for anyone over the age of 17. Through the years, I’ve formed a personal code for which reasons to dislike an athlete are deemed reasonable or unreasonable.
For instance, my distaste for Carmelo Anthony comes from a number of places. His desire to prove to the Pistons that they made a mistake by “disrespecting” him is just one of the reasons. His involvement in a number of high profile situations involving connections to street crime and the “snitch” campaign is another reason. My distaste for Shaquille O’Neal comes from his belief that he is “allowed” under the rules to physically punish opposing players without being called for a foul. I also don’t care for his refusal to give proper respect to teams that have beaten him in the playoffs. He often says that his team lost because they didn’t play well and not because the other team was better. I have not seen an ounce of humility from him in his 13 seasons. I happen to value humility highly. Keep in mind that I was the President of the Shaquille O’Neal bandwagon in 1992. Neither of those two players can hold a candle to my disdain for Kobe Bryant. Bryant and selfishness could soon be interchangeable words in the English language.
While Carmelo Anthony, Shaq and Kobe are three people that I only know through the press, it is entirely possible that each is an upstanding citizen who deserves nothing but the best in life. Even though my personal code allows me to dislike them, it’s entirely possible that my distaste for them is irrational since I only know what has been reported in the press. However, the first person that I have truly hated post “irrational childhood hatred” that I feel no remorse whatsoever for said hatred, is none other than Barry Bonds. Although, Kobe is making a sound case at becoming number two on the list. Each passing day, I hope for some sort of miracle in the form of Bonds not passing Babe Ruth on the home run list. There’s nothing deeply rooted about my wish for Bonds to fall short of Ruth and Aaron. I simply don’t believe he deserves to break the record.
Before I go any further, I want to point out that I think Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Jose Canseco don’t deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments either. I wrote a paper in college during the fall of ’98 that discussed the impact of the McGwire-Sosa home run race. McGwire and Sosa polarized baseball fans in a time when baseball was struggling to bring in fans. I was enamored by the race. I was engulfed by McGwire and Sosa’s larger than life personas. Two players were breaking records in a sport with 100+ years of history. I loved every minute of it. But, we now know that the great home run race of ‘98 was a fraud. Mark McGwire was on steroids and Sammy Sosa was likely on the “juice” as well. I no longer look back on that season with affection. I have stricken those accomplishments from my memory. I have stripped McGwire and Sosa’s careers in my mind down to one word: inflated. Inflated numbers. Inflated forearms. Inflated recognition. Those guys made millions of dollars off of cheating and frankly, the money is all they should be left with.
I don’t want to get sidetracked here but I want to address something that I think is ridiculous. I have heard countless reporters and TV personalities say that baseball fans are hypocrites for lambasting players that used steroids because the fans were the ones that wanted the home runs. That has been said so much that it has actually become an accepted belief. Somehow, the fans longing for home runs are responsible for the “steroid era”. It’s as if we injected the steroids into their bodies ourselves. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 50+ home runs on a number of occasions without using steroids. Alex Rodriguez is well on his way to hitting 700+ career home runs without the aid of steroids. The same can be said for Albert Pujols and a number of other rising stars in baseball. Those are the types of players that fans want to see hit home runs. Fans don’t deserve to be dooped by steroid users because they like home runs. That’s a ridiculous misuse of logic.
Back to Bonds. My hatred for Bonds is equal parts the above paragraph and his deplorable personality. Anybody who hasn’t read “Game of Shadows” needs to do so pronto. If you haven’t read the book or the excerpt from the March 13 Sports Illustrated, this article will give you a nice summary. If you have time, read the excerpt from Sports Illustrated. Bonds comes off as a total jerk with hardly a positive personality trait to speak of. He’s vindictive and jealous. He’s egotistical and confrontational. He hates the media because they have shed him in a negative light. From all accounts, the “negative light” has been justly bestowed. So essentially, he hates the media for telling the truth. Bonds seems to have a “little man” complex where he often ridicules other people in an effort to make himself feel better. He’s long felt that nobody wants to see him succeed. When he was winning MVP awards during his pre-steroid phase, I had nothing but good feelings towards Bonds. He was a talented five-tool star with a seemingly likeable personality. In fact, the San Francisco Giants became one of my favorite teams when he arrived from Pittsburgh. I had the pleasure of seeing a Giants-Cubs game at Candlestick Park back in the mid 90’s when the Giants consisted of Bonds and Glenallen Hill and loved every minute of it.
As Bonds got older, his “real” personality started to show in the press. He once made a statement to the effect that he’s “beating all of the records of your white hero Babe Ruth so now people have to respect me” and that people don’t want him passing Ruth for racial reasons. I’m sure there are people out there that feel that way but for Bonds to generalize that thought to “baseball fans” in America was ridiculous. My guess is that there’s not a “complex” that Bonds doesn’t have.
Anyhow, after reading the damning evidence from “Game of Shadows”, I could not understand for the life of me why the feds hadn’t charged Bonds with perjury. Thankfully, the feds wisened up and changed their minds. Also, Bud Selig announced that MLB would investigate Bonds. Bonds will pass Ruth on the home run list very soon. Despite his claims otherwise, there is also a very good possibility that Bonds will pass Aaron as the all-time home run leader. My only hope is that justice will be served in the form of a perjury conviction or a MLB finding that Bonds did indeed take steroids rendering an asterisk next to Bonds’ name. Bonds should not have the honor of standing at the top of a list littered with non-steroid users. At the very least, I get some comfort in knowing that Bonds has to live with the fact that he cheated and that he’s a scoundrel.
I can vividly remember Bonds’ disgust by the Ken Griffey Jr.-Barry Bonds debate of the mid-90’s. They were regarded as the two best in baseball. Bonds felt he was obviously the better player. Ten years later, Griffey’s accomplishments stand far and beyond Bonds’. Griffey did his damage without the aid of performance enhancing drugs. In all honesty, Ken Griffey Jr. stands to gain the most from the Bonds inquisition. If all steroid users are taken out of the equation, Ken Griffey Jr. stands alone as the premier power hitter of the last forty years.
Joe Morgan discussed Bonds and racism on Baseball Tonight the other day. It seems that it’s almost impossible to root against Bonds without being labeled a racist or having the word “racism” pop up. Morgan basically said that it’s impossible to root against Bonds without it being racism. Like I mentioned above, I’m sure there are bigots out there that hate Bonds because he’s black. That’s unfortunate and unacceptable. However, that represents a minute percentage of baseball fans. I’m rooting against Bonds because he’s a cheating jerk. If “Game of Shadows” is an accurate depiction of Bonds, then he is a reprehensible human-being. I’ll be the first to apologize to Bonds if he is vindicated on all counts. Bonds thought that America was enamored with McGwire’s ’98 home run binge was because he was white. He also felt that his own accomplishments were not met with the same fanfare because he was black. It’s that kind of thinking that perpetuates the racism talk in our society. There is one thing similar about Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro and it’s not their race. Each is an embarrassment to baseball and to themselves. There is one thing similar about Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero; they are human beings that I would love to see break the all-time home run record. Bonds is a delusional, self-enamored, steroid-using man. Being black has nothing to do with that.