Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Final thoughts on Barry Bonds

POOR NIKOLAI BONDS, for giving us that awkward, awkward moment at home plate. It looks like he was expecting a bear hug from his father, and all he got instead was... nothing. Not even a high five. Then he does this thing with his finger indicating something like "You're No. 1," and before you know it, he's patted his father not once but twice on the butt. Some variation of this clip will be played a thousand times over the next eight years, when A-Rod becomes the home run king, and I'll cringe every time I see it.

HOW IRONIC IS IT that Bud Selig missed the game because he was meeting with steroids investigator George Mitchell? It may be one of the definitions of irony, in fact.

WHO IS MIKE BACSIK? Just before serving up No. 756, he tried a behind-the-back catch of a toss from his first baseman. That's all I know about him. Really, that's all I care to know.

THE GIANTS ARE AN ABSOLUTELY HORRENDOUS TEAM, with a terrible front office and almost no chance of contending for anything in the next two years. Excepting the year he was hurt, Barry Bonds has carried that team for the last five years, so no matter how you feel about Bonds the person, you can forgive San Francisco for cheering him as a savior. Because in a way, he did save baseball in San Francisco, since it's no guarantee that the Giants' gorgeous ballpark would have been built if a big-name star like Bonds hadn't signed with the team. So go wild, San Fran: it's the last time you'll get to for a while.

TO THE GIANTS' PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCER: You probably weren't trying to be, but your phraseology in introducing Hank Aaron -- "A very special message from a very special someone" -- was condescending.

AND HERE, FINALLY, at the risk of sounding like Jerry Springer, is my final thought:

I'll miss the live cut-ins and the feeling of watching impending history -- of being in the presence of a moment you understand will live for a very long time -- but really, it's better for everyone that this has passed. I don't know where we go from here. But even as I prepare to leave off this subject forever, I'm saddened by the realization that Barry Bonds, one of the greatest ballplayers who ever played, will never be the heralded ambassador baseball so loves to celebrate. Part of the reason is because Bonds wanted it that way -- Game of Shadows explains how he was always better when he thought the world was against him, when he was pissed off about something -- so you could say he deserves all the animosity he has gotten and has coming. But by denigrating him, we smear baseball, too, even inadvertently, and peel another layer off the veneer that sanctifies the institution of sports. I know I'm too old to be saying this, but that just makes me sadder, just a little.

So no, I don't hate Barry Bonds. I probably don't even despise him. But the day after he broke the most hallowed record in American sports, I feel disappointed, and in some ways that's worse. I feel like a kid who's been rooked by the magician who turns out to be a petty illusionist. Maybe, as someone said in Merlin, the NBC miniseries, the age of magic is over. Will the age that follows be better?

POSTSCRIPT: "Bonds! The Musical," via Gawker.

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