The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Barry Bonds, track & field

It seems as though everyone is talking about Barry Bonds and the home run record this week. He's on the cover of Sports Illustrated ("What San Franciscans Think of Bonds"), George F. Will wrote a rare two-page column about the subject in Newsweek, and NPR's On The Media aired a piece on it this morning.

The SI story is based on the deep sense of loyalty fans have for their teams. A classic example: a friend who is an Indians fan was very defensive about Albert Belle when he played for Cleveland, but once he left the team she said "Thank God I don't have to be an apologist for that jackass anymore". (One can glean a deep understanding of political attitudes amongst ordinary Americans by observing this type of behavior; in this perspective, Fox News finally makes sense.) Bonds is so distasteful a character that quite a few Giants fans still won't stick up for him.

Will more or less laments tho whole situation of drugs and sport and almost goes so far as to reject his own libertarian views towards this one subject...but never can quite admit that doping requires a strict level of regulation. The biggest thing you get out of the column is that Will loves baseball only because he, an unathletic nerd, can blandly intellectualize it.

NPR talked with San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto, who got to the heart of the matter. He said the steroid thing cheapens every great achievement in baseball over the last 15 years, and this is the ultimate expression of that cheapness--the most revered record is going to be broken by a total jackass who cheated better than anyone else and may go to prison because of it.

Couple all of this with the wierdness of the Landis hearing, and you might just say that all professional sports are dirty and corrupt to the core...but I challenge you to find me a self-regulating and highly competitive enterprise that isn't. Baseball and track share a certain peculiarity that set them apart: a reverence for records and numbers, which doping totally screws up--maybe forever.

Baseball is experiencing a profound sense of dread as Bonds' home run total approaches 755; the nature of the game requires months or years for a new record to be set and traditionally the excitement mounts. This will not be the last anticlimax for baseball, but one of many. Contrast this to track, where our records are set in a matter of moments, and then they are looked back on with great regularoty until they are broken by another record. But we now realize that the record book is literally riddled with fake and unapproachable marks. Our sense of dread is much more muted, but it happens every time Sanya Richards improves her PR.

No comments: