This summer, as Bonds came closer and closer to the remaining "unbreakable" baseball record--Hank Aaron's 755 homers in a career--I found myself unable to get very excited about it. I didn't tune into Giants games to see if another one would leave the park. At times, I found myself hoping that maybe his knees would give out, forcing his retirement when he was maybe one or two shy of Aaron's mark; that seemed like poetic justice to me. (I certainly wasn't alone in my lack of enthusiasm; read any article about the home run chase from the past few weeks, and you'll see people holding signs with asterisks on them, read about the boos mixed in with the cheers, and so on.
But it's all moot now, of course, because Bonds did break the record last night. And again, I find myself saying....meh. It's just hard to generate a lot of enthusiasm when the record was broken by someone who has a cloud of allegations hanging over his head and who has seemingly never made an effort to connect with the fans who help pay his salary.
I'm not alone in this feeling; Mark Kriegel of FoxSports.com is feeling the same way::
If you didn't know better, it might have been a perfect moment. The pitcher, Mike Bacsik, issued his gallant challenge with a fastball on a full count. Bacsik's father, a former big league pitcher himself, had told him to go after Barry Bonds. Don't worry about giving up the big one, he told his son.Is that too cynical? Only time will tell. I know there are a lot of people with me in the "meh" crowd--assuming they're still paying attention to baseball at all.
Bacsik gave up the big one, of course. Bonds would recall his own father's advice: "Load your back leg." By now, the swing is familiar: a violent swivel of the hips and torso, bat meets ball, redirecting its path in a grand parabola. Ferocious physics. Then, the ecstatic moment, as Bonds raised his arms in triumph. He knew. Everybody knew.
[...]Now Bonds took the microphone. He thanked his teammates. He thanked his family.
"My dad," he said.
There was a clearly audible voice from the San Francisco crowd: "We love you Barry."
Bonds was already done, though. He had begun to choke up at the mention of his father. He was holding back tears.
It took him only 22 major league seasons to demonstrate his humanity.
"My dad taught me everything I know," Bonds would say later.
Fathers and sons and baseball. I wanted to cry.
But I couldn't.
I want to believe in Barry Bonds. But I can't. I don't think I'm alone, either.
It seems more prudent to save your tears for the looming indictment.
I've posted before about how I believe that baseball exemplifies a lot of things that are good about America, and I haven't stopped believing that. I'm just waiting for the steroid era to pass, for its protagonists to retire, and I hope that when it's over, people will still believe. I wish it had been caught sooner; Kriegel does too:
Of course, Major League Baseball didn't catch on to the steroid scam until it was too late. By then Mark McGwire was out of the game, and the home run totals were hopelessly tainted. Shame on Bud Selig. He should have seen it coming.Is it asking too much for our would-be heroes to hold themselves to a higher standard in how they conduct themselves, both on and off the field? I still say yes.
The evidence that Barry Bonds did steroids, among other illicit substances, is overwhelming. Steroids are illegal. Steroids are cheating. And unlike so many others, Bonds — the best player of this tainted era — didn't need drugs to be great. Still, great as he is, he's human. If you could trade places with him, you might have done steroids. Baseball players weren't the only ones, of course. All the sports got big. It got to the point where even those skinny little bike riders couldn't be trusted.
What, you believe in the Tour de France?
The problem is, getting big has a price. It compromises your faith.
Now Barry Bonds has broken the most famous record in sports. It should be the perfect story: a tale of fathers and sons and baseball. It should bring a tear to your eye.
You want to believe, but you can't. Welcome to the new world.
Hank Aaron wasn't there last night, as had been expected, but he did send a video message of congratulations. It ended with this sentence: "My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams." And may the next guy be someone whom all of America can rally around once again.
Heh. Indeed: Happy six-year "blogiversary" to Instapundit. Here's his first weeks' worth of posts.