|T'S A STARTLING contrast, the types of comments and commentary Barry Bonds' surpassing of Babe Ruth has elicited from fellow major leaguers and the journalists who cover them. A sampling, first, of the media's take:|
"What does 715 mean, anyway? ... Achieved by a drug cheat, it's a meaningless milestone." – Linda Robertson, Miami Herald
"At some point, probably soon, Bonds is going to look around and realize that everyone is gone .... He'll be left alone, out of chances to change his legacy." -- Ann Killion, San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News
"... [H]e deserves everything he's getting -- our indifference, our scorn, every boo, every syringe thrown at him and every bad word said about him. But most of all, he deserves to be ignored." -- Jemele Hill, Orlando Sentinel
Now, what some major leaguers had to say:
"The more I think about it, the bottom line is, you're witnessing history. I think that's what people really kind of need to appreciate a little bit." -- Padres catcher Mike PiazzaDavid Wells has been the notable exception among players, saying before No. 715 was hit that he knew some of the homers Bonds hit off him were steroid-aided. Some people may say to consider the source, but they said that about Jose Canseco, too, and he's still waiting to be sued by Rafael Palmeiro and the rest.
"I'm glad for him. He is a great player and has had a great career." -- Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols
"I hope he doesn't just stop right here and call it quits. Hopefully he can pass Aaron, also." -- Orioles pitcher John Halama Red Sox pitcher
Anyway, why such opposite reactions? I'm sure it has something to do with that ridiculous "code of honor" most baseball players adhere to about not speaking poorly of other (great) players. Too bad that code of honor doesn't allow for truth. I also suspect it has something to do with the sports writer's penchant for issuing morality checks, which is an easy job when your subjects are professional athletes.
But better to be overly anxious in condemning wrongdoing than to ignore it or gloss it over. Today's baseball players remind me of the media and fans during the late-1990s home run boom. They don't want to acknowledge that hulking, muscle-bound white elephant in the room that's about to stampede and crush baseball's soul (well, finish it off). That's what'll happen, friends -- if baseball players don't react strongly against this assault on baseball's integrity, then another Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds will come along (with an undetectable substance coursing through his veins) and drag baseball into the compost heap of sports history.
Ignoring truth causes such tragedies, great and small. Always has.
Truth can't be subdued for long; you'd think we'd have learned that by now. Lies inevitably crumble under the weight of their massive, intricate structures (they are built from the top down), while truth remains perched atop immovable concrete foundations (from the ground up).
This is true everywhere. It's why Enron's chief officers are bound for prison; why the depression scores for women who've had abortions are so high; why the Presbyterian Church USA is nearing a denominational split. Lies destroy; truth builds up, and it can heal.
I'd love to see Barry Bonds admit the truth, and even more, I'd love to see him accept the Truth (Jesus, of course). Because no matter how terrifying it may seem to embrace truth, it's far better than embracing the lies that will eventually doom your soul.
Some people say this whole Bonds/steroids/home run chase issue isn't really that important, not when we've got wars and famines and natural disasters ravaging the Earth and its inhabitants. But I say that truth deserves full recognition, be it on the baseball fields or the battlefields.
Say what you will about the sports journalists, but at least they recognize that to some degree. The players had better realize it, too.
By the time they decide to stop turning the other way, their beautiful game will be in shambles, and there will nowhere for them to turn but inward, to face their own complicity in this travesty.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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