June 28th, 2007 03:42 EST
Do Not Pass Up the Moment
Baseball figures such as Hank Aaron and Bud Selig have pledged apathy towards Bonds’ approach of 755. For Selig, that is a business decision that will be resolved shortly, for Aaron, it is ignorance. If Hank Aaron says he does not care about Bonds’ pursuit, he is either senile or lying. I would place my money on the latter.
Fans have taken this example and the rooting section for Barry Bonds has dwindled to San Francisco, with the peak of the enthusiasm sitting in canoes just beyond the right field wall of AT&T Park. Recently more focus has been given to the final resting place of the ball and uniform of destiny.
Baseball fans and sports fans in general, need to realize that they may never see this again. The magnitude of this record is greater than any other. Until somebody hits .400 or a pitcher comes along shooting for Cy’s win record will there be an accomplishment this important.
Also important to note is that Bud Selig may not necessarily endorse Barry Bonds’ achievements as perfectly clean; he was never going to suspend or ban him. Selig, I assume, is not as indecisive as his image lets on. He sees the publicity this brings the sport. Even if much of it is not positive, the argument that swirls around Bonds is a catalyst for media coverage and fan interest.
Selig is watching, watching as money flows into the game, as every Bonds at bat is scrutinized by ESPN over any other event, as the value of tickets in San Francisco rise like gas prices. He is listening, listening as the game, the Hall of Fame, Hank Aaron, 755 and Bonds are discussed on every sports radio station in the country and in many around the world. Bud Selig is paying attention.
Subconsciously, you are, too. Without even trying to be, you are intensely connected to the Barry Bonds chase. Even if you haven’t read Game of Shadows, you have seen and heard enough excerpts to have formed a hypothesis. Each Bonds blast issues a pulse felt throughout the sports world, an unavoidable gravitational pull is exerted by every TV with ESPN and the big glove in left center of AT&T Park is baseball’s Mecca at this moment.
You are riveted by the aloof persona that may be the greatest player to ever have graced a baseball field, but the possibility I just recognized probably made you scoff or cringe. You are turned off by Barry Bonds’ sound bytes, video clips and repulsed by his plays for pity. You think allegations against him are true and somehow think he should be punished for himself as well as every other player who ever used steroids.
The hate that is directed at Bonds is not apathy. You wish that it were someone else breaking the record. You yearn to wake up one morning and have Ken Griffey Jr. or Albert Pujols replace Bonds. You want the story of the new Home Run King to be flowery, joyous and celebratory. The deep concern that everyone has for this chase is a concern for the face of baseball. It is the thought that a dishonorable man will be viewed on sports’ most hallowed ground.
Unfortunately for the perfectionists, baseball does not work like a fairy tale. It is baseball’s flawless depiction of real life that captivates its followers. In baseball’s world, there is triumph and tragedy, and the good guy does not always win. There is no Little League sentiment to “just have fun.” Baseball is a world that captures a portion of the American population, usually at a young age, and it never lets them go.
You cannot escape baseball. You definitely cannot turn a cold shoulder to Barry Bonds’ chase. Over the next month, a monumental event in baseball history will occur. It will rock the sports universe, and everyone will watch.
Some might find themselves smiling as they reminisce about Bonds’ career. While watching for a home run, you may see Bonds do nothing of the sort, but instead get a hit, steal second and pat Derek Jeter on the cheek in the manner of a wily veteran as he stands safely on second in a scene that once occurred much more frequently. He may contribute to his team’s performance without hitting a long ball and fans will not be disappointed, instead they will continue on, satisfied with baseball.
When you step away from the record and the chase and the steroid controversy, Bonds is an enjoyable player to watch, and in his younger years, he was a thrilling athlete.
And as 756 flies over whatever wall it may, you might remember the positive Bonds moments, such as when he lifted Torii Hunter over his shoulder in the All-Star Game in Milwaukee. You might remember a wiry kid stealing bases in Pittsburgh. You might remember a determined veteran leading a proud franchise towards a long awaited World Series, but falling just short of a ring. You might remember an unquestioned slugger blowing Mark McGwire’s record to smithereens on a magical, clear night in San Francisco.
In the fateful moment when Bonds raises the bar, you might remember 600, 700 and 715. The newspaper headlines and signs in Dodger Stadium will fade out, and his accomplishments will rise to the top. There will be the same period of sports ecstasy, complete physical numbness, total emotional engrossment that swept across the sports world in the moment when Aaron hit 715, when Joe Carter won the World Series, when McGwire and Sammy Sosa embraced in St. Louis, when Bonds hit 71.
You will remember where you were when Bonds hits that small white sphere deep into the night. The moment will be engraved into your mind, and the window you view it through will not be tinted. The controversy is just a sideshow.
The day after, you can begin the journey to the next moment, be it through Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard or someone totally different. Baseball will continue and new stories will emerge, but this moment is now, and it cannot be ignored.
Undeniably, when Bonds makes his 756th roundtrip, you will feel the impact, understand the total eclipse and get lost in the frenzy, and whether you ever recognize it or not, Barry Bonds will become baseball’s one and only, non asterisked Home Run King.
I will remember it, you will remember it and so will millions of others. The moment will live forever in history, and not in infamy. The countdown to the greatest individual sports achievement of our generation is on. When the moment comes, do not waste one of the precious sports moments of our lives, enjoy it.