Posted: Thursday May 18, 2006 5:15PM; Updated: Thursday May 18, 2006 6:10PM
Barry Bonds makes it hard for people of any race to root for him.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
As Barry Bonds steps to the plate in Oakland this weekend to once again try to whack No. 714 and tie Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, I will be in New York City rolling my eyes and continuing my anti-Bonds protest. Bonds may be one of the best players in baseball history, but that doesn't mean I have to like him, root for him or look the other way at his tainted accomplishments.
Of course, I'm far from the only one who dislikes Bonds for his alleged steroid use and his cantankerous attitude. However, I do question whether I'm one of the few black people in America who has had enough of Bonds. Who is nauseated by the sight of him and his surly attitude and his "the media is out to get me" mantra. Who is not a Bonds sympathizer simply because he is black and wishes he would just go away already.
Now, more than ever, it seems that instead of ridiculing Bonds for being a liar, a cheat and a bully throughout much of his career, many in the black community seem to be exalting him to martyr-like status simply because he is black. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It was the same with O.J., Jim Brown and Kobe Bryant. They were black, so many in the community forgave them. With Bonds, many black people look past the raucous behavior and the allegations of steroids, cheating and tax evasion and chalk up the scrutiny and media criticism as another case of "a black man trying to survive in a white man's world."
Bonds keeps it real, so he gets respect, they reason. Not only is he a beast on the baseball diamond (seven MVP awards), but he also doesn't bow down to The Man, so he gets mad props.
Hall of Famer and ESPN commentator Joe Morgan once said of Bonds, "Barry doesn't put on any airs. He is who he is, and I respect that."
Respect? Come on, Joe. How can you respect a guy who sheepishly admitted that he might have "unknowingly" taken steroids by thinking they were flaxseed oil and arthritis balm? (That's a confession in my book.) How can you respect a guy who often is confrontational toward the media, saying things like, "I don't feel like talking all f------ night, so hurry up with this s---."
Now the love-him-or-hate-him feelings toward Bonds are creeping into the current King of the Long Ball chase. Some in the black community contend that most fans and baseball purists don't want Bonds to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list because Ruth was white. Some argue that Mark McGwire got a pass for cheating because he's Caucasian. LSU history professor Leonard Moore said with a straight face this spring, "White America doesn't want [Bonds] to [pass] Babe Ruth and is doing everything they can to stop him. America hasn't had a white hope since the retirement of Larry Bird, and once Bonds passes Ruth, there's nothing that will make [Ruth] unique, and they're scared."
Never one to pass up the chance to cry racism, Rev. Jesse Jackson was seen creeping around at a Giants game two weeks ago, strategically making veiled comments about people's real agendas regarding Bonds. I guess I should wonder what my real agenda is, Jesse. I'm black, Bonds is black and I still don't want him anywhere near Ruth's mark, let alone Hank Aaron's record. Bonds is like the sixth-grade bully who has everyone but his victims fooled, and I just want him to go away. The reward for cheating and ghastly behavior should not be national praise.
Yet he won't go away. Bonds is everywhere these days. He's on every sports highlight reel, steadily trying to pass Ruth and frequently pointing the finger at the world and saying that the media have hurt him and tried to tear him down because of his race.
During spring training Bonds mused, "If I was a long ways from Babe Ruth, this wouldn't be the same. Because Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and Babe Ruth ain't black. I'm black. Blacks, we go through a little more, and that's the truth."
Never mind that after Ruth, Bonds would have to pass Aaron, a black man, to become the Home Run King. Never mind that there were thousands of white fans who booed Roger Maris when he passed the Babe in 1961. Never mind that most people's reasons for disliking Bonds have more to do with his seemingly haughty attitude than they do his skin.
Of course, I know that racism and discrimination are still very real, in and away from sports. However, it saddens me that with Bonds the battle lines are being drawn along race. It saddens me that the black community looks beyond veracity and integrity to support someone like Bonds simply because he is black.
I will protest Bonds because I truly believe that he took steroids and is a cheat, the same way I protested McGwire before him. I won't respect Bonds or root for him simply because he is black. Even though I seem to be in the minority, my standards have always been higher than the color of someone's skin.