Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Fly Route

August 9, 2007

That home run, Barry Bonds' Tuesday night fifth-inning blast into San Francisco's center field stands, will go down as the most famous home run in baseball history. It will be the most replayed home run in baseball history, and the most talked about and debated home run in baseball history -- not because anyone likes Barry Bonds or his new record, but because we all hate him and it.

Now that the chase is over, life has resumed and the planet is turning again, we've just begun to put Bonds and his achievements in perspective. That's a task that won't be finished today, this season or this decade, however.

No, if there's anything I learned in this whole process it's that my opinion of people can keep changing, almost constantly.

Take Hank Aaron, for instance. I knew some about the former record holder before Bonds let loose home run No. 756, but I've learned so much more. My admiration for a man I never saw play and never knew much about swelled as his skillfully distanced himself from Bonds all season long. Whenever he was asked to comment, he no-commented, saying much more effectively what he thought about the whole thing than he ever could have by just airing his grievances.

He put on a clinic for MLB commissioner Bug Selig, especially when he taped a message of congratulations to be played after Bonds actually hit the record-sealing homer.

Aaron is a man who watched his greatest accomplishment, what seemed like his greatest mark on the world and something that'd become seemingly permanently attached to almost become his identity be ripped away by someone who had all the grace of a drunken hippopotamus.

Then to acknowledge the record -- he showed more respect and dignity with one short video message than Bonds has shown in the entirety of this process.

Selig, meanwhile, might have played his role even worse than Bonds, to whatever degree that's possible. I don't care that he wasn't there to see the final home run, but it's embarrassing that for every step Bonds took toward the record, Selig dispatched a cold press release. He included some reference to the steroid controversy in every statement he made, offering the most insincere of congratulations at every opportunity.

Selig will go down as petty, uncoordinated and at least partially responsible fro the steroid mess in the first place.

Don't follow him, my fellow fans. Don't slide into the welcome pit of embarrassment. Don't sling the mud and make the same hopeless pledges we all made when we first soured on Bonds several years ago.

I've had more than a few people proudly proclaim that they'll never recognize Bonds as the home run record holder, not for his career mark of 756 or his single season record he set in 2001. They proudly cross their arms, puff their chests and swear by Roger Maris and Hank Aaron.

There's no point, and it's stupid.

What are you going to do, keep your own record book? Hide it under the bed? It had better be leather bound -- I mean, it is a record book, right? You might want to keep one of those little-girl diary locks on it, too, so 'roided up freaks doesn't sneak in and change your personal history of baseball.

Don't forget to weight in on whether Babe Ruth's homers all count because he didn't play against African American players. And make sure you consider the advent of tougher relief pitching, more well rested pitchers, wildly fluctuating ballpark dimensions, and modern health, medicine and non-steroid related weight training.

While you're at it, go ahead and decide what exactly is a performance-enhancing drug -- is it just steroids, or just human growth hormones? What about other drugs that can offer smaller advantages? Make sure you decide when they were first introduced and what all numbers you want to expunge from your personal record book -- I'll be especially impressed if you go beyond weeding out the muscle-bound sluggers and find the lighter hitters and pitchers that are just as guilty as Bonds.

Can't do it? Neither can I, so all I'm left with is a new home run king, one I have to acknowledge, but one that leaves my lips pursed rather than split in a smile.

We don't have to like it. We don't have to respect it. But our only option now is to play it like Henry Aaron. We need to grit our teeth and accept it.

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