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
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 way?
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
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 friend.
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
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.
And 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.