What’s the deal with all this Bonds bashing? Here we have one of the greatest athletes of all time bravely struggling on through injuries and distractions but all he gets is grief. The fans aren’t showing much love and the press pounds him every day. Bonds and some of his supporters-all three of them-have suggested that it’s because of race.
Is the San Francisco slugger right? Could racism be behind the anti-Bonds movement? Hey, maybe he has a point. Mark McGwire allegedly filled his veins with goodies just like Bonds allegedly did but nobody is sticking hate pins into McGuire dolls these days. Did McGuire get a pass with fans and media because he’s white? Is Bonds a victim of racism and nothing more?
America is stiffing Bonds on the love and respect now primarily because of his words and behavior spread out over an entire career. The icing on the cake is the charge that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs. (Read Game of Shadows if you have any doubts he did) It’s not a color thing. It’s a rudeness thing, a cheating thing. White people don’t hold the patent on undesirable personalities. Jerks come in all colors. To say people don’t like Bonds because he is black is sort of like saying people didn’t like Hitler because of his mustache. (No, I’m not suggesting Bonds is as bad as Hitler. He’s just a baseball player.)
Throughout his entire career, Bonds consistently has been a selfish player with no real interest in the team aspect of the team sport he plays. He has been rude to fans and reporters, and, late in his career when he should have been fading, he began seeing steroid dealer Victor Conte and then suddenly became the greatest power hitter in the history of baseball by far. If someone did some investigating I would not be surprised to learn that he has kicked a few cute dogs along the way too. Bonds is not liked because he just isn’t very likable. But, in fairness, who knows? Maybe in his private life he is a swell guy. Perhaps Bonds just fakes this colossal jerk image in order to avoid being bothered with all those multi-million-dollar endorsement offers that continually nag all the popular athletes.
Yes, US sports fans do include some percentage of racially-obsessed paint-chip-eating fans. And it is reasonable to assume that some fans really do dislike Bonds because he is black. But the vast majority of US pro sports fans have evolved way beyond tossing bananas and making chimp noises at black players (as still goes on occasionally in European soccer). Most American fans, even those with racial hang-ups, have no problem embracing black sports heroes. If Tiger Woods showed up a Ku Klux Klan rally, for example, I bet three-fourths of the hooded brethren would pause from lighting their big cross to ask him for an autograph.
Ultimately there are two big reasons Bonds can’t hide behind the race card and pretend everyone would love him if only his ancestors had immigrated to America from Sweden instead of Africa. (1) The Mark McGwire comparison does not hold up. McGwire did his alleged dirty deeds and escaped. He’s been retired for years, out of the game and buried somewhere deep in the witness protection program. If he was still playing today and pursuing home run records then he would be getting slammed in the public and the press just like Bonds is. It’s pretty easy to hate white guys too, just ask Dick Cheney and Ken Lay.
(2) The guy who holds the record Bonds hopes to break is black! To say Bonds and his pursuit of the all-time home run record are not as respected as they should be because of race is profoundly stupid because of who the player who hit 755 homers is. Hank Aaron-the greatest home run hitter ever, no matter how many Bonds hits-is a real challenge for those who think fans despise Bonds because they don’t want to see a black man hold the biggest record in baseball. Dig up an old photo of old number 44 for the Atlanta Braves and see for yourself. He ain’t Icelandic.
Ironically, Aaron faced real racism while chasing Ruth’s record in the American South back in the 1970s. Today, however, Aaron is universally admired and respected by fans, an honor Bonds will never know.