Monday, May 08, 2006

On Berating Bonds

The day suicide lines lit up like a scoreboard

White people LOVE to hate Barry Bonds. I’ve noticed this with increasing curiosity over the last three years or so. There appears to be something affirming in it for them. Don’t get me wrong. There are black people who dislike him also. But for whites, Bonds seems to illicit an animosity that borders on fanaticism. Contrary to what you may believe, this hatred has little to do with the steroid cloud under which Bonds has played for the last few years. Indeed, many whites’ obsessive contempt for Bonds began long before the “clear and the cream” infamously entered the baseball vernacular. The steroids accusations just seem to have given white folks a cause around which to rally.
Undoubtedly much of the hostility toward Barry Bonds is rooted, to one degree or another, in the following things:

One is that Bonds has, for many years, maintained an uncanny ability to keep white folks – fans and media – at a distance. He doesn’t appear to need them, or court their praise one way or another. At times, he comes across as surly and recalcitrant. In a post Michael Jordan era, when successful athletes are encouraged to be all things to all people, Bonds, apparently, just wants to be left alone. Only recently, with his ESPN reality show, Bonds on Bonds, has he made himself accessible to the media. To most, the fact that Bobby Bonds, Barry’s father, had a tumultuous relationship with the media in his playing days, and that this soured Barry on the media early on, can’t or won’t register.

Another reason is that Bonds seems completely indifferent to the steroids accusations. The more the media focuses on Bonds’ alleged steroid use, the more apt he seems to be to shrug his shoulders and imply that, at least for him, it’s a non-issue. Media types want to see Bonds at least pretend to be apologetic and contrite, one game that Bonds doesn’t play well.

Also, Bonds has made statements that have further alienated him from the baseball “purists.” He’s spoken dismissively (oh my!) of baseball god, Babe Ruth. Tellingly, those who want an asterisk to be placed beside Bonds’ name don’t feel it necessary to have one placed beside Ruth’s – who completed his assault on the record books without ANY blacks or Latinos to impede him.

To add fuel to the fire, a couple of years back, he correctly identified the city of Boston as being a haven for racists. As could be expected, many clueless whites reacted by identifying Bonds himself as the racist (even going so far as to compare his comments with those of John Rocker) despite the truth of his words. Boston has a viciously anti-black history, and sports were no exception. According to Dave Zirin, author of What’s My Name, Fool!: Sports and Resistance in the United States, Bill Russell, whom many consider the greatest team player in American sport, and the foundation of eleven Celtics championships, described the city as “a flea market of racism.” “I didn’t play for Boston,” Russell once admitted, “I played for the Celtics.” As the winds of racial change blew throughout MLB in the fifties, Beantown’s beloved Red Sox still clung to their policy of excluding blacks. That organization was, in fact, the last major league team to integrate its roster. Further, Boston continues to be one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country.

Despite all this, I’m still left wondering if some of the animosity towards him can be traced to his blackness. Would Mark McGwire, for instance, if he shared Bonds’ personality, be the object of such universal hatred? I can’t imagine that he would. As I’ve suggested, Bonds won’t win any congeniality contests any time soon but he’s certainly no Ty Cobb, who was, by all reports, the dirtiest, SOB to ever play the game.

So now that the 2006 baseball season is well underway, the venomous jeers and hisses have become cacophonous. Fans (again, OVERWHELMINGLY white) somehow seek to restore the dignity of the game by tearing him down. Dads bring their kids to the park so that they can shout, “Cheater,” and throw inflatable syringes at him. Reporters keep seeking to corner him into contrition. And his recent stumble out of the gate has solidified his guilty status in the minds of his detractors.

Frankly, the carnival of Bonds-haters has made me begin to root for him. The resolve with which his enemies seek to ruin him has convinced me that it ain’t just about the ‘roids. So, hopefully, as white folks keep on hating Bonds, he’ll keep on hitting them out of the park. If only to spite them.



At 8:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find his behavior ridiculous he may be a fantastic athlete but how much is due to the steroids. Babe Ruth's family is totally disregarding this "record" as they should because they know how it was truly earned. It amazes me how Bonds just thinks by ignoring the issue it will go away but it makes him look more self-centered, selfish and guilty. I think he is using and he should address his problem head on. I was just reading where he took last night off to rest and his team covered for him. What bullshit, does he think one hit and he is king of the game quite the opposite it just shows how pompass he truly is! The main problem is that society is into winning and achieving greatness and we'll go to any means to achieve it. Therefore we pay millions of dollars to Bonds to get production & records from him. He just happened to be first on the plate to go for the record, he just so happened to be black. Magwire is just as much of as ass as well so which would you choose?

At 10:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur, a lot of what Bonds is going through has to do with how he has handled himself during his career. That has been his choice. And sure, it doesn't help with the steriod allegations. But the hatred he's receiving lately as he approaches the record, ie; death threats, hate mail, racially charged comments directed toward him are solely centered around his being black. That fact can't be disputed and those that argue that it's purely related to his alleged steriod use are blind. As for the compro to what would happen if Bonds were white, I'd venture to say that he wouldn't be anywhere near as hated. I think of it in terms of the NFL's now retired Bill Romanowski. Most white people may say that they didn't like him or that he was a "nasty" player. I've heard white people say that he was a "hard worker" and "team oriented" but no hatred. However he was more than that. Namely a racist.... Just like Ruth, Cobb, and a HOST of others in the Baseball Hall of Fame right now. I've always found it funny how racism, drug abusers, womanizers, and child molestors could make it to the HOF, but steriods and gambling on the sport are a no-no.

At 12:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment,

"Babe Ruth's family is totally disregarding this "record" as they should because they know how it was truly earned."

If you are such a stickler for identifying what is a "true" record and what isn't, they you would probably know that a good percentage of the Babe's homers were homers where it hit the ground first and bounce over the fence (in today's era, that would be ruled a ground rule double). Also, I hate the fact that people are treating this guy as if he; 1) Has committed an evil crime; 2) as if he is the only current and non-current player who is using performance enhancement drugs; and 3) as if Barry wasn't a HOFer before he allegedly started taking steroids (If you are a truly informed baseball fan, you cannot deny this last point no matter how much you hate Bonds).


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