Friday, July 20, 2007

When Barry Goes ‘Downtown’, He’ll Go Without Me
Our Town downtown
July 23, 2007

When you read this, Barry Bonds may have already hit the last home run he needed to get beyond Henry Aaron. Boo, that’s what I say. Here’s how much I say Boo: I have not watched baseball all year. Which is something when you consider that I twice went to Tucson to see the Indians in spring training with my youngest daughter. And that I would have named my oldest daughter Willie if I’d known then that I wouldn’t ever have a son.

One night last week I stopped for one beer up the block at 10:00. It’s not a sports bar but there’s an old TV at either end of the place. I took out a pencil and made little notes in a notebook about stuff rather than get into the Mets, or the Yankees on the tube. And I’ve stopped watching Sports Center too because they, after having excoriated (basically buried) Bonds over the last couple years, now count down his march toward Aaron like it was Aaron himself going after Ruth. And while I still save the sports page till last every morning to savor it like I have since I was a kid with major league pennants on my pajamas, I find myself now getting through it as quickly as the business section.

The other day after Bonds hit two in one game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, he said, after having sat out for a couple games, that he felt ‘rejuvenated’. Here’s what I thought: maybe he went and got his human growth hormone, or whatever he might use, level adjusted after the recent dry spell he’d gone through. That’s what I thought. That’s what his history has put in my mind. That’s why it’s no fun for me anymore. I don’t even know if he’s using anything right now, but if I have to think about it, that’s a turn-off. It distracts me from the game. I used to think, like every man who went to college was supposed to, that baseball was ‘the perfect game’ and getting home was like the Odyssey and all that. Steroids have taken that away from me. Just like Michael Richards’ racist rant has taken the fun out of Seinfeld. When he slides into Jerry’s apartment now, I don’t just see Kramer anymore. That ruins it. I don’t watch it at all anymore. Jason Giambi hit a home run last year when I was sitting in a bar and I looked down at my glass rather than watch his trot around the bases.

It’s weird what we get outraged by. James Frey’s being dishonest in his memoir rocked the world for a month or more. We hated him. Giambi we still love, the big lug. Well, I don’t.

We’re supposed to hate Bud Selig instead. I don’t, anymore than I hate any wealthy, long-ago-compromised business guy. I don’t expect high standards from a club owner. Maybe the Rooneys who owned the Steelers were good guys, but I can’t remember anyone else. So I have no reason at all to expect an owner/commissioner to be a morally courageous guy. He might be a good dad. I’ll bet he is. But he’s certainly no one you should expect to go to the wall or against the grain. He’s a grabby mogul. Come on.

Who I am holding it against, besides the players themselves, of course, and their parents and the managers who are supposed to look out for the boys (Say it ain’t so, Joe), are the sportswriters. Where were they? Where was Lupica, and Dave Anderson and William C. Rhoden and all the other sportwriters in this town and all around the country who’ve got bold things to say about Tom Coughlin, and Dick Cheney even ? Yo, guys, you didn’t notice? Didn’t see muscles where there weren’t any the year before? Didn’t see homeruns flying off the bats of second basemen? I’ll read James Frey before I’ll read those guys about Bonds again. They’ll be blaming Bud Selig, anyway, or George Bush when he owned the Rangers. If they’d have done their job at the time, maybe things would be different this summer for me, and Hammerin’ Hank Aaron.

Bill Gunlocke

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