Friday, May 18, 2007

In Defense of Barry Bonds

OK, professional athletes can be fat, overpaid, entitled pussies, and their fanboys can be self-hating morons who worship at an empty alter.

Barry Bonds is on the juice. He can't come out and say it, but it's the truth. Babe Ruth was on a different kind of juice, and Hank Aaron was a skilled and persistent athlete, but Bonds has enhanced his athleticism with man-made concoctions. I'm sure Bonds also wears shoes better than my black-on-black Converse All Star Hi Tops when he plays baseball, and I'm sure he wears a batters glove better than a sandlot slugger would own.

Barry Bonds grew to a stature that has allowed him to learn how to connect a bat to a ball - a task some say is the most difficult in sport - a recipient of a lucky sperm that actually took advantage of what he was born-into (unlike, for example the chimp who is in the White House right now, born on third, thinking he hit a triple...). I'm sure that hitting a ball is pretty much the only thing he has done with passion through his life - he's had a rough family life, and doesn't speak to his team mates, reporters, etc. (the juice ain't good for social skills). No amount of juice will automatically make you hyper-muscular - I'm sure he crafts and shapes his stature with exercise.

If Bonds didn't juice, he would probably still connect with as many balls. He just probably wouldn't hit them as far. He wouldn't have had as many home runs, but he would have had more base hits, and he would have had to run more, and he would have exposed himself to more injury and body wear-and-tear. Just a different kind of success.

Who has enabled his success? Us. Baseball fans, whether we overtly support juicing or not. Modern professional baseball is nothing but big entertainment business, make no mistake about that. We vote with our dollars, even in times of somewhat declining support for professional baseball, and enable these talented and lucky prima donnas to earn their astronomical salaries.

If we really didn't want our athletes to enhance their performance, we would vote with our wallets by not purchasing things from baseball broadcasts' sponsors, we wouldn't buy overpriced licensed merchandise and then use our bodies as billboards for MLB products, and we wouldn't buy tickets. But we do spend this money, enough to keep a few team owners and athletes in mind-numbing wealth.

We need to admit that players put man-made concoctions in their bodies. Some of these substances are prescribed, sanctioned and legal, and some are not.

I propose that we simply do monthly blood testing for performance-enhancing drugs, post the results in the media and on every program at every game, and let us as consumers decide whom we will support. Maybe we'll decide to support athletes who are not juicing. Maybe we will choose to eschew athletes and support educators or independent musicians. But maybe we will chose to support athletes according to their results - after all, these drugs hurt no one but the one taking them - in the context of the limits and possibilities of their game.

Go A-Rod! With some luck and persistence, you may someday make Bonds a footnote, an asterisk, a good hitter.

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