"The fault, Dear Brutus..."

At the Confines, we've all weighed in on the Bonds issue. You readers know where we stand, and you're aware that I said I wanted proof. That proof has been plastered across the front page of every sports section of every paper in the country. The only possible exceptions are here in Minneapolis and St. Paul where we're mourning a fatal tragedy, not one of character.

I still see genuis in his swing; I still watch his at-bats in rapt attention, but something has changed. I'd held on to my "shadow of a doubt" arguments, and now that they're gone, I don't know what to think of him.

The media blitz has been brutal, and while I agree that the truth needs to be told, I have nothing but contempt for the writers who used this man as a meal ticket for the last five seasons, only to tear him apart now for the sake of a story. Let's be honest, this isn't about the sanctity of baseball, or we would have seen these sorts of accusations and stories in the press during the McGwire / Sosa race. This isn't about the protection of the most unreachable record in all of sports, all-time home runs, or we wouldn't have seen all the fanfare for the tens of milestones Barry has passed in the last few seasons. And this most certianly isn't about a feeling of betrayal, since no one seem to be hurt that this went on.

This is about revenge. Not necessarily the books themselves, although I reserve the right to comment after I have a chance to look at them myself. Most of the articles written are knife-twisting character assassinations. The venom and bile that has been unleashed in print and on the web could fuel a chemical weapons plant. How they've all forgotten that none of them published a damn word detailing steroid use until Jose Canseco wrote a book. As I think the Texas Rangers must have said many times, if we're depending on Jose Canseco, we're in real trouble. The writers were even slower and tamer than Congress in demanding answers from players on the steroid issue. But now they're shocked and appalled by Bonds, damning him as the worst cheat in baseball since the Black Sox. He may go down in history more hated than Pete Rose.

When I look at this, I don't see a chance for revenge against a star who, true, was frosty and combattive in his dealings with the press. I see Shakespearian tragedy. Bonds was a man with enormous talent, a true five-tool player who had already accomplished amazing things. But when he saw the media fall in love with Sammy and Mark, he wanted a piece. He was a better player, a better athlete, fielder, base stealer, runner and thrower. The only thing he wasn't better at was hitting home runs. He's the only 400/400 player in history, and furthermore, the only 500/500 player in history. But those records weren't enough for him.

I thought this article put it all nicely into perspective. Bonds wanted to be the media darling so bad that he was willing to radically chemically alter his body to do so, but it was no worse than McGwire, or Giambi, or Palmiero. He did cheat, but Caminiti put the bar at 75 percent of players. He was not alone. Bonds' competitive drive, that had made him so great was the same thing that brought him down in the end. It's reminiscent of Henry Bolingbroke in Richard II, when Bolingbroke kills and deposes a good king over a matter of pride and percieved injustice. Barry played the game brilliantly for 16 seasons, with nothing more that mortal blood in his veins, and a love of the game in his heart. It was his love for himself and how he played the game that led him away from that. That hubris is classical tragic flaw, and while such subects are treated with great tenderness and understanding by Shakespeare, they are not by mainstream sports writers. 'Tis a pity.

There are a few open-minded articles out there, but most reporters are having a field day, trotting out the articles they've worked on for years, titled "F@*% Barry Bonds (all the way to the bank)." Look, I don't think this guy is a hero, or even a particularly nice person. But I don't think he's the poster child for steroid abuse, and I don't think assassinating him in print is a noble act by the press. The MLB, the Player's Association, the press and the fans covered their eyes and ears. It should have been clear to us years ago, but no one wanted to pull back the curtain.

We now look down on Bonds for taking the easy way out, but didn't we all? His fault lies in himself, as ours do in ourselves. We entered into a confederacy of ignorance with the press and the MLB, that has been falling away bit by bit for the last few years. His fault, and ours, lie not in the stars, they are in ourselves.

You may not believe it, but I didn't realize that this post would go up on the Ides of March when I decided on the title. However, I will end on a note that is decidedly less than Shakespearian. There was a Simpsons episode a few years back where Bart takes a drug for ADD and discovers a conspiracy orchestrted by Major League Baseball. Mark McGwire shows up to placate the townspeople and asks them the following question:

"Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?"

Now we all know the answer to that question.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

And what could an aspiring lawyer/politican learn from this tragedy/comedy?
Perhaps it is no matter how "unfortunate/suspicious" the timing might seem for the truth to emerge, it is the inevitibale handmaiden to the horrific egos that seem to forget that the truth can not be invented or shaped, it just "is" (the word William Jefferson Clinton had such a difficult time defining).
And it certainly loves to dress up like the fat lady, warming up to take the stage and signal the ending.
In your angst now, I think you are missing the great debate that will fill the quiet interludes between pitches of the Great American Pastime for years , even decades to come. Long after the visual images of these players are forgotten by many,we won't be talking in rapture about the skills of Bonds, McGuire, and the like, we will be debating if they should be in the Hall of Fame.

You can not blame the writers or the truth for that, only the character and values that these "heros" brought to your game, our game, America's greatest pastime.

It makes me feel ashamed that I consider myself too smug and sophisticated to have never bought a ticket to a WWF event or the Roller Derby. At least they don't pretend to feign integrity in hype.

It makes me feel sad that I can never take another young boy to the ballpark with the same promise my father took me, or yours took you.
Obsession with numbers and hype finally broke the golden chain. How are we to compare these players to those before? it won't be through numbers, it will be through character.

They all took a pure and simple game and turned it into the WWF. Shame on them all.