The Execrable Barry Bonds and the Bigotry Industry

Alert grownups have known, since well before the Nancy Pelosi era, that there are more horse’s behinds in San Francisco than there are horses.

We’re reminded of this again as the execrable Barry Bonds comes ever nearer to setting a Major League record for career homeruns, probably the most cherished record in the Grand Old Game.

As this is written, Bonds has 745 career dingers, just 10 short of Henry Aaron’s record of 755. Not everyone is happy about this.

A recent ABC-ESPN poll quantifies the obvious, that more than half of baseball fans don’t wish Barry well and don’t want him to break Aaron’s record. Many don’t like the fact that there’s overwhelming evidence that Bond’s eye-popping homerun performances of the past few years have been pharmaceutically enhanced. (Bonds denies this at every opportunity —  though many file these protestations along with: there’s no such thing as the Mafia, I’m a Democrat and I care about the troops, and if you sail far enough east or west you’ll fall off the end of the earth.) 

In a wearisome assault on our patience and our common sense, sportscasters on various sports shows, in an apparent attempt to demonstrate they can be as big a bunch of fools as their colleagues on the real news side, have been nattering on annoyingly about another of the poll’s findings, that almost three times as many black respondents (75%) as white (28%) want Bonds to break the record.

These Rather-Dowd wannabes have used this to suggest that white baseball fans, with a touch of Ku Kluxery they can’t rid their hearts of, don’t want Bonds to set the record because he’s black. In an America where white sports fans have cheered on an endless procession of excellent black athletes for more than a half century, this accusation is absurd and outrageous on more levels than you can count.

To listen to these guys you would have thought, for all the clarification it got, that Bonds is poised to break Bull Connor’s home run record, not the record of Henry Aaron, who started his career in the Negro Leagues.

And there was almost no mention on how overwhelming the evidence is that Bonds’ recent success can’t be accounted for by extra hours in the weight room. It’s not just the 40 or so pounds of extra muscle he put on after age 35, or the fact that he went in three seasons from a size 7 to a size 8 ¾ cap. But there’s also the fact, hardly mentioned this weekend, that he now has just one big eye in the middle of his forehead. And he comes to batting practice naked and carrying a dead chicken.

Satirical exaggeration aside, it’s clear to me than baseball fans, more even than the steroids issue, are put off by the fact that Barry Bonds is and always has been, to use the technical phrase, a prick. (In fact, my sources tell me he’s the current president of the Bay Area chapter of Jerks Without Borders, and his high school classmates voted him most likely to be found dead in a motel room.) He’s been an arrogant, whiney, sullen, and self-centered malcontent since he burst onto the sports scene as a very talented, but not buffed, outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the mid-eighties. He’s never shown the first shred of respect or appreciation for the fans who care about and pay for the game. He gets zero votes for Miss Congeniality.

It may be that Barry inherited attitude genes from his father, Bobby Bonds, who baseball fans of a certain age will remember was a pretty fair complainer himself. This may be why Bonds Sr., though very talented, played on 117 different teams (still a record) during his major league career. Teams unloaded him so fast that during the season his wife had to write him care of the Commissioner of Baseball. He wore out as much luggage than he broke bats over a long career.

So I’m not whooping up Barry. I just wish Don Drysdale was still around to give Barry his proper when he comes up. Can you imagine what Big Don or Early Wynn would have done had Barry popped one and then stood there admiring his work for a minute and a half (some networks now go to commercials immediately when Barry goes yard)? Likely they would have buried one in Barry’s ribs the next time he came up. That’s the way certain forms of baseball etiquette used to be enforced. 

Baseball fans don’t need to be lectured about not liking Barry Bonds. There are plenty of reasons not to wish him well, and none of them have the first thing to do with the color of his skin.

I love baseball, which has lightened and enlivened my summers for decades. So I’ll stay tuned to the games, while trying to tune out Bonds until the dirty business of the new record is finally done, probably some time in June. Now I will pray that God forgives me for some of the harsh things I’ve said in this column, and that sportscasters will one day learn to stick to what sports fans want to hear about when they tune in — the game.