Hating Barry Bonds has become a national passion –
or so the very sportswriters who have whipped up this hate tell
us. What they don't tell us is that this passion is prevalent almost
exclusively among a few white men.
Not that others, including myself, don't think that Barry probably
used steroids. Though not proven, the circumstantial evidence is
overwhelming. However, most people have better things to do with
our lives than hate Barry. And one's mind must be seriously clouded
to overlook a number of important factors:
First, the steroid scandal is principally (though not only) the
fault of Major League Baseball, not of any player. Baseball did
not ban the use of steroids until 2004. The owners and the commissioner
knew about their widespread use and refused to discourage let alone
ban steroid use.
They made huge money from the steroid-powered home
run binge and put their profits before the good of the game and
the health of the players. To blame the players alone, let alone
one single player, for the steroid scandal is blatantly ridiculous.
Why isn't the hate aimed at the commissioner or the owners? Is anyone
calling for the resignation of the commissioner or for the owners
to be banned from baseball, or at least to be penalized in some
Second, although the most high profile steroid users
(or suspected users) are power hitters, pitchers also used steroids.
In fact, although position players far outnumber pitchers, so far
more pitchers than hitters have been actually caught and punished
for steroid use. Pitchers on steroids were throwing to hitters on
steroids. Who benefited the most from their use, the hitters or
the pitchers? Surely not just Barry Bonds.
I assume steroid use also affected fielding. So if there are any
asterisks applied to records because of steroids, they should be
applied to every baseball endeavor over the last decade: all aspects
of pitching, hitting and fielding.
So why do a few white men hate Barry
Bonds with a passion?
Ask Henry Aaron, the reigning all time home run king. He received
constant death threats and racial hatred when he neared Babe Ruth's
hallowed home run record. The racism was so bad that the FBI was
deployed to open his mail, Aaron was assigned a personal bodyguard,
and his teammates stood constantly at the ready to defend their
Bigots made his life (and his family's life) a living hell. To this
day he refuses to discuss his home run chase because it brings back
so much pain.
Even in today's racially "enlightened age," many cannot
get over their fixation on the Great White Hope. Even dead ones
like Babe Ruth whose records have already been surpassed.
some sportswriters and fans don't seem to be able let racial stereotypes
die, especially when they overlap with sensationalism. They constantly
find some black athletes to excoriate as beasts, e.g. Allen Iverson,
Rasheed Wallace, Terrell Owens, Shani Davis and Barry Bonds. And
they forever tell us that white superstars like Larry Bird, Steve
Nash and others succeeded due to their superior "work ethic"
despite "limited talent."
Many Bonds haters justify their stance by saying they are only out
to defend baseball's supposedly sacred statistics and records. If
that is their real concern, let me suggest the most important thing
they could do would be to expunge all the records and statistics
set in the decade's long white's only era. (Or they might include
Josh Gibson's Negro League record of 84 home runs in one season
and 962 lifetime.)
Who deserves the asterisk more – Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds?
Bob Wing is an Oakland Bay Area-based writer and activist.