Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Saying Goodbye to Barry?

In what has been sweepingly dismissed as Barry being Barry, and just tired, and run down, and injured, is it time that we contemplate the larger picture here? Are we at the end of the career of Barry Bonds? If this question was posed to me a few years back I would have thought that I would relish this day more than the birthday I celebrated in Cabo San Lucas this past January. But now that it appears to be a very real possibility that baseball may lose the best player that has ever played the game, I am at a loss. If this is the case, and Barry truly does retire, there will be an immense fissure left in his absence, the likes of which will not be filled any time soon, if ever.

I am not the largest proponent of Barry Bonds. I cannot say that watching him pepper the seats across Jack Murphy Stadium for years was ever very pleasant. I cannot say that watching him surgically pull potential friar home runs back from the void in left field was delightful. I cannot say that watching the number one Padre Killer was ever very fun. But, I can say that Barry Bonds was a fantastic baseball player. He was a monumental baseball player and in my opinion the best player who ever played the game. Not the most liked certainly, but definitely the best. Did Barry get a bad wrap? Well, he always did what he wanted and made no bones about the fact that he was who he was and if you didn’t like Barry, it made no difference to him. What has happened that has led us to the current situation that we find ourselves in? Has the media succeeded, as Barry said yesterday, “You wanted me to jump off the bridge, I finally did.”? Have they? Has he been forced from the game?

Barry Bonds takes steroids. Barry Bonds has extramarital affairs. Barry Bonds has a huge head. Barry Bonds lied to the grand jury. All of these things have been stated ad nausiam. My question is why? Why is the media trying to take down a historic symbol of our “national pastime”? When did the media switch sides and start trying to vilify our heroes instead of celebrate them? Have we regressed back to a society of good ‘ol boys that doesn’t want to see a black man break a sacred holy white man’s record? For those in the media who still don’t know, Babe Ruth’s record has already been broken. And, yes, they guy who broke that record was not white. Is this still a case of race?

I want to say no, but the parallels to what is happening with Barry and what happened to the greats of the past are staggering to me. In not so many words, the media over the past few years has painted Barry as a cheater, of both the game and in his personal life. An adulterer, a liar, and a cheat, with a big head, sickening personal attacks which would ruin any average Joe by the end of the day. But not Barry, he has put up with this for years now. There are never positives in a Barry story anymore, there are just tales of lying, cheating and deceit that fill the pages daily. Almost as if to challenge him even more, to make the game that much harder for him. A game that seems so staggeringly easy for this man that he may just quit, truly leaving no doubt in my mind that he is the best of all time and that any and all of the most coveted and celebrated records of the game would have fallen at his hands. Even more staggering is that it seems as if he could leave now, content, and happy to have his life back, be out of the intense scrutiny of the media, knowing full well that no one has ever, or will ever play the game like he did. Barry just didn’t leave a mark on the game, he changed the game, and left a gaping scar in his wake that will never be erased.

I can’t say that I have ever been a Barry Bonds fan. But, as a baseball fan, Barry has been one of the most exceptional assets of the game. I have had the pleasure and pain of watching the best baseball player to ever play the game during my lifetime. Part of me hopes he walks away, content with his accomplishments and leaving no doubt in most minds that the two records he had left to conquer would have crumbled. The other part of me hopes that he comes back, so I can be a part of the moment when he does cement his legacy on the game. And I hope the media is there to acknowledge him and celebrate the man that changed baseball.

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