Saturday, July 28, 2007

Baseball Been Barry Barry Good

Populism is a jealousy filled devil that demands we stand against the rich, the powerful and the elite. Populism deifies the mediocre and decries the excellent. That is why there has been a popular backlash against the greatest baseball player of our generation's quest to break the most hallowed record in sports.

Barry Bonds has been called many things. But today he is mostly known as a villian, a cheater. As Bonds heads toward Hank Aaron's most prized record of 755 home runs, popular opinion has excoriated him for using illegal substances to enable his legendary statistics. Allegations of anabolic steroid use have made him a pariah.

I have to ask why we care if Barry got a little edge. If there is anything that I am, it is a sports junkie. Like many males, if left to my own devices I will watch sports all day, at least as background to my daily activities. My favorite sports are America's favorites: football and baseball. What do we want to see in those sports? In football it is speedy runners heading for the end zone only to be met with bone crunching tackles. I love the idea of a 280 lb linebacker running like a gazelle to take a running back's head off. In baseball, we want to see pitches approaching 100 mph swatted into the seats 425 feet away by batters. Steroids help to make sports more entertaining. When I was a boy as recently as the 1980s, a powerful middle infielder hit fifteen home runs a season. Now we see them hit three times that many. That's three times as much excitement, I say.

Let's face it, people who play many sports are freaks. The average weight of an NFL lineman is well over 300 lbs. The NBA has hundreds of players that are close to seven feet tall. I say let the freaks get freakier for my entertainment.

Speaking of the NBA, people bring up the integrity issue. Steroid users have complete integrity, as opposed to point shavers or those who gamble on the outcome of games they are involved in. Steroid users take the drugs in order to perform better and eventually win. There is no conflicting motive. In fact, they do so at considerable risk to their long term quality of life. Their heads grow freakishly large, their, shall we say fruitstand is likely to wither, they are likely to experience mood swings and liver failure. All in the pursuit of my entertainment!

Critics say Barry violated the integrity of the game by refusing to play by the rules. Maybe so. How has baseball historically treated those who use foreign substances to violate the integrity of the game?

Gaylord Perry was known for throwing a spitball, an illegal pitch that features a foreign object (not necessarily spit) to help it to break more than a normal pitch. The last time I checked he was in the hall of fame, warts and all. In 1987 Twins pitcher Joe Neikro was ejected from a game and suspended for carrying an illegal substance (an emory board) to the mound with him for the same purpose. Neikro got a slap on the wrist and was allowed to help the Twins claim a World Series title.

I would like to close with a list of activities that have put sports related figures in the news in recent months. Which of these are worse than juicing up in pursuit of immortality?

- Throwing the outcome of NBA games, including possibly playoff contests
- Running a dog fighting ring
- Gunfight outside a strip club
- Fistfight inside a strip club

- The NHL's abysmal TV ratings
- Murdering one's wife and child in a rage induced by (er, the source of the rage can't be conclusively proven)

So I say kudos to Barry Bonds. As you round the bases on your trek into immortality, I hope you do not get hit by a D-battery hurled by a baseball purist.


Anonymous john f not kerry said...

I'm with you on this Nihilist. I don't root against Bonds because of steroids, I can't stand him because he has always acted like a jerk. He has never changed since his days with the Pirates, and I couldn't stand him then.

Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn are loved for not only the way they played the game, but also how they treated people.

Frankly, as much of a sports junkie as I am, I think the players' salaries are symptomatic of what we truly value here in America. My wife is a pediatric nurse, and if anyone deserves to be treated as a "hero", it is people like her. Some guy hitting a ball is kind of insignificant in the long run.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My apologies to your wife, but I'm convinced that Barry Bonds is collossally more important in the long run than the entire lot of us put together (except insofar as we need to be "there" to witness history.)

Athletes are not paid enough. They don't go fast enough all the time, either. They don't hit hard enough after the play is call, every time.

But when they do, when they exercise their craft under the perfect circumstances at the precise moment, they become Legend.

Keep in mind that your wife is a real person, as are you, as I am, too. We've got real stuff to do, real work to perform, real kids to save, so to speak.

But athletes are a misfit collection of nuts, thugs and dreamers who left the grid of reality, who have traded life in the real moment for something else, something transient, whether it is ungodly sums, glory or simply the spectacular moment.

Whatever their motivation, they provide, or attempt to provide, (often not out of the goodness of their hearts) their own culture with legends. Ruth, Thorpe, Orr, Robinson, Lombardi...

Villians like Cobb, Liston, Rose, Lambier, and yes, even Barry Bonds are crucial to the legends of our culture, the stories of our time, the greater draw and meaning of sports.

Barry Bonds has become more important than us at the cost of his soul, but that diminishes his greatness not one bit.


9:47 AM  

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