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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Word (or Three) About Barry Bonds

There's been lots of moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth among sportwriters lately about Barry Bonds' home run record. Bonds, as you may know has been tainted by the BALCO steroids scandal.

Here is my take on the whole matter:

First, let's get one thing clear about sportswriters. They are considered, among true journalists, as the bastard sons of true writers. Any nitwit jock sniffer can be a sports writer. In fact, that's the living, breathing definition of sports writer. I have a J degree, so I'm not speaking entirely from ignorance. I've also done some sports writing so I'm even more qualified.

Remember the Robert Duvall character in "The Natural?" He told Robert Redford (Roy Hobbs)how sports writers make or break athletes. Now granted Bonds isn't the most sociable guy in the world. Maybe he doesn't suffer fools well when they ask the same question 50 times over. The Cal Ripkens, Sammy Sosas and Kirby Pucketts of the world knew the value of public relations. Barry couldn't care less. So that makes him bad? But the fact is, no matter how Barry responds, no matter what he says in public, no matter WHAT, he is painted in the worst possible light by the babblers. I hear people who've NEVER spoken to Bonds in their lives talk about what an asshole he is. I always say the only way you "know" he's an asshole is because these guys told you he is. People judge him with the barest of knowledge.

Bonds is a guy who has absolutely dedicated himself to being the best there ever was. I think he accomplished that. Maybe he took 'roids and maybe he didn't. The point is he did EVERYTHING he could possibly do to be a great baseball player. His workouts were legendary. His work ethic unassailable. People think when an athlete signs to a huge contract they just sit back and coast. Just collect a paycheck. I think it's the opposite. Athlete's practically KILL themselves to prove they are worth the big bucks. Bonds typifies that.

Yeah, you say, but Babe Ruth accomplished his deeds without the benefit of chemistry. True enough. But he also never faced a black or Latin pitcher. Nor a Korean, Japanese, Australian nor Dutch player for that matter. Babe Ruth's cohort was a bunch of white farm boys throwing 85 mile per hour pus. He never had to stand in against a 90 mile an hour change up or 97 mph gas. Split finger fast ball? Never heard of it. Sliders? Nope. Cut fastballs? Nah!

He had the luxury of train travel, shorter seasons, slower pace, less media intrusion, less fan intrusion. It was all stacked his way.

Even with the so-called advantages of steroids (if true) it is obvious Bonds is not having his way paved to the homerun record. He has tied Ruth in his 41st year of age. His knees are hammered and time is NOT on his side. I have serious doubts he will make Hank Aaron's mark. After a certain age athletes don't get better. They just get older.

As I said few fans have actually even spoken to Bonds. I have, once. It was early in the '92 season. He was still with Pittsburgh. He had won the 91 MVP, but was struggling in the early going, batting about .126. It was a miserable, rainy day. The Bucs were playing the Cubs (it actually turned out to be one of the greatest baseball comebacks EVER). I'll wager by the ninth inning there weren't 500 fans in the stadium. Several of us were out in the left field stands. During a pitching change Bonds came over and started talking with us. He was telling us how he was having trouble hitting. He and I had a short exchange, but it was just two guys talking baseball. I believe he was sincere. No big deal, but believe me if there had been a sportwriter there he would have been painted in the worst light.

And while I'm on it, why isn't Roger Clemens ever questioned about how he can still throw 95 mph at his advanced age? Jason Giambi ADMITTED taking steroids and he gets a pass. Is there some kind of color test here?

People say, "but look how much bigger he is than when he first came up?" Yeah, so what's your point? I look at my own son. He's 25 and has never taken steroids. But, he has been a dedicated lifter for the last six or seven years. There is no comparison to his size now and when he was 18. He's huge. This can't happen to a guy who makes $20 million a year, can hire a personal trainer, buy the best equipment to use in his own house, hire a personal chef to ensure he gets the best food?

People are stupid. I know a guy who played football in the early 1960s. He was First Team All-Ohio as a center. He weighed 153 pounds. 153 pounds! Are you kidding me?! What high school coach in his right mind would send a 153 pound kid out to play center in this day and age? Even in Division V HS football you probably couldn't get away with that. But, let a pro player develop himself and "he's cheating."

Did Bonds dope? I don't know and neither do you. I don't care. He did what he did against the best. He's a first round Hall of Famer. The babbling sports idiots will see to it he isn't. But, that doesn't make it so.

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