Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We are all Barry Bonds

[As noted repeatedly, suddenly I am free of my huge project. The 744-page course catalog has gone to press. I sign off on bluelines tomorrow or the next day. I'll have a bunch of ACs ... author's corrections ... but the madness of all the decisions and editing and processing and emails and all that ... well ... it is over, and my life can finally slowly decompress back to a quotidien reality of exchange and involvement. Every year, these days after the fact are a little weird, unreal, hard to fathom. But I know what it means, and I am, under the fatigue, happy and relieved.]

Meanwhile, Barry Bonds is at the plate ... now 0-2 after a long foul ball that Belliard could not field. Now 1-2, outside and low. And outside and low again ... they always get squirrelly when they go 0-2 on him. And outside and low again. And on a fastball low and down the middle, he screams a double to triples alley. Kuip says, "For guys over forty, doubles alley."

We're on the Bonds watch, of course. He is tied with Hank Aaron for most home runs ever ... 755. And we are waiting on 756 while America watches and kvetches about whether or not ... mostly whether ... he did steroids. And whether or not ... mostly whether ... his having done steroids invalidates the record.

I love how they say, "Bonds will make history." History to the sports fan, not to mention the casual consumer of news entertainment, means a record. It is not the totality of how we got here, it is not the interplay of competing forces, it is not the third principle of historical observation that anything given long enough turns into its opposite. No, it is the simple record itself. As if the instant transforms to history and can be clipped and stowed and we can move ... back to consuming and stuffing our faces and purchasing our way to oblivion.


Yes, ouch ineed. This is the problem with all the kvetching about Bonds' record. Why have we chosen Bonds as the whipping boy for the steroids era? Why is he the villain? Is he the only one? ... why no. Is he singular in his excess? ... no again. We live in a society which worships excess. We live in a society in the grips of the most cataclysmic paroxysm of greed in the history of our species. Nothing is too big or too obscene. No standards of decency apply (except, of course, to the freedom to have sex how you please ... that little contradiction I will try to address on some other occasion).

Anyone who drives an SUV is on steroids. Anyone who lives in some monster home where they are heating or air conditioning empty space while no one is present ... you are on steroids. Anyone who munches down Big Gulps of high-fructose-corn-syrup laden soft drinks is on steroids ... bottled water is steroids, energy-sucking high-def TVs are steroids. I walked past the Randall Museum for little children up the hill today, and hundreds of discarded boxed meals were piling out of the garbage pails all over the parking lot that was itself strewn with monster trucks. Steroids. Cheap this at WalMart, cheap that at Target ... all steroids, folks ... all excess, unnecessary, unsatisfying, just plain suckin' down whatever you can get yours paws on. Steroids. We are all on steroids.

Why is Bonds the guilty one when we consume like there is no tomorrow?

Bonds is the king of his era. He played by the rules that others played by. It is not ironic, but rather emblematic, that the pitcher who served up the ball for home run number 755 had himself been suspended for steroids when he was in the minor leagues ... the guy is 5'11", 190, hardly a muscle-bound android.

We are Barry Bonds, and when we hate him, we hate ourselves. Maybe we should learn something from that, and clean up our act. But it is nauseating to hear all the sanctimonious holier-than-thou crap from a bunch of monster-truck-driving, bottled-water-drowning, over-stuffing-yer-face, proud, never-say-no-to-more steroidals.

Physician, heal thyself.


An hour or so later ... he did it. He hit 435 feet of home run to the deepest part of the deepest yard in baseball. A sublime home run. And then, more sublime especially for those of us who worship words above all things, an eloquent congratulations from Hank Aaron whose sweet Southern turn of phrase leant more class to the event than the normally crass Mr. Bonds could reocgnize or expect or subsequently deliver.

So happy are we all that it is over at last. I look forward to unencumbered Giants baseball next year. In the meanwhile, though, I think he deserves it. History is what it is, not what we wish it were. Bonds did what he did in the terms of the era in which he did it. That is what history is. The rehashing and the kvetching are nothing. The arc of the ball, towering, that is what is it is about.