Monday, November 8, 2010

This isn't fair

Because Doug Glanville isn't a classically-trained sportswriter like the other bad analysts I make fun of in my ongoing attempt to interest myself by pretending to be FJM. Instead, he's part of ESPN's stable of former players brought on to give insight about the sport they played, further proving that you don't have to know shit about a sport to be great at it.

On the other hand, who cares?

A new world open to Barry Bonds

With Giants as champs, slugger has new chance to move from villain to ambassador

Barry, of course, doesn't play baseball any more, is 46 years old, was really good at baseball, injected himself with a bunch of steroids, lied about it, ruined his team, etc etc, he's an asshole.

But Doug Glanville will now show how Bonds can piggyback on the success of a team he used to play for and make everyone forget that he's the preeminent roided-up asshole of his sport.

Mr. Glanville, I am skeptical.

The San Francisco Giants are champions and the city certainly waited long enough. Since I spend the majority of my time in Chicago, and as a former Chicago Cub, San Fran didn't really wait that long, come to think of it.

They waited forever! Wait, no they didn't! Strong opening.

During that wait, the city saw its share of controversies and tensions. Being part of the baseball exodus from New York left a few sore spots in New York fandom, but for the most part, that hatchet is buried, even if not so much for the Dodgers. But the Giants did help pry open the door for the expanding influence of baseball, landing almost as far as possible from their native New York.

This is gobbledeegook, right? "While they waited for a championship, New York fans were upset because they left, but not any more, and they helped the influence of baseball." This would be a circular argument if it, you know, was an argument and not what it is, which is, nonsense.

In watching their World Series championship march, I found it interesting to note the ever-moving shadow of Barry Bonds, the man who may be their most iconic figure of controversy and tension. Bonds was visibly supportive of his former team. He came out to cheers before Game 3 of the NLCS against the defending NL champion Phillies at AT&T Park, and he showed that he does still have some love in San Francisco, despite the cloud over his statistically illustrious career.

He did steroids.

Also, why does he get points for being "visibly supportive" of the Giants? You know, Hitler was a bad guy, but he was so supportive of the Germans at the Olympics, you really have to give it up, for him, don't you?

But the assessment of his career on the larger stage of baseball's legacy does not stand up and applaud so readily. He had a record-breaking career, surpassing Hank Aaron in career home runs and smashing the single-season record in 2001. Most of his next moves have revolved around a reactive game of defense. Denial, inquisition, question marks, asterisks.

Let's play a game called: Beat Around The Bush! Here's how you play.

1. Take the face of the Steroid Era in baseball.
2. Try not to mention he did steroids.

Doug Glanville is winning right now with 14 points. He got 4 just now, one each for "Denial," "inquisition," "question marks, and "asterisks," and a perfect 10/10 for referring to "the cloud over his statistically illustrious career." Congrats, Doug!

In breaking one of the near-impossible baseball records, he had no ambassadorship to develop, no time to provide perspective, no opportunity to heal through his accomplishment. When Muhammad Ali became king of his sport, he traveled, he broke down doors. He also had many on the world stage welcoming him even amidst his controversies. And his controversies carried tremendous weight, involving religion, war, politics and race. But he moved people.

You know who else was controversial? Gandhi. Nelson Mandela. Cher. Not so quick to hate Bonds now that you know what sort of company he totally keeps through something that isn't a giant hole in logic, now are you?

Even when Riddick Bowe became a boxing champion, he tried to do the same. He toured the world, attempting to open doors and be a diplomat of humanity, but it fell a little flat. Maybe that was just a function of the charisma of a man, or maybe it was inherent in how people perceived the achievement itself.

In related news, I just woke up from a 10-year coma and the first thing I found out was that Barry Bonds is like Riddick Bowe because both "attempted to ... be a diplomat of humanity." After decoding this because it's not anywhere close to sufficient grammar usage, I then slipped into another coma. Seeya!

Nevertheless, on paper, Bonds has tremendous entrée to have an Ali-like door open to him. Endless talents, coming from a baseball family, record-breaking abilities, a brilliant mind for all things Major League Baseball. Yet, with all these factors, at no time since his record-setting season could he spend time beyond what was required for his own defense. His methods of achieving those records were in question, the wounds of his father's frustrations were still tangible and bleeding, he did not have catchy rhymes or a consistent message and approach to provide ... other than to dip and dive.

Ali, of course, was at the top of his game when he made those controversial stances about war and religion and race, which made him awesome because he rose above the WHY THE FUCK ARE WE COMPARING ASSHOLE BARRY BONDS TO MUHAMMAD ALI THIS IS FUCKING STUPID.

That is what can happen when you don't think about what something means beyond the numbers before you surpass it. You end up seeing it only through your personal lens. Then you have to make up the rules as you go, spend time on the short-sighted initiatives like clearing your name, instead of seeing the golden opportunity to connect with people and fans who long to witness history or watch history be rewritten.

So Barry Bonds can restore his image by: Going back in time to when he set those records and being more Ali-ish about it. Simple fix!

Also he scores a couple more Beat Around The Bush points, I think, by referring to Barry's steroid use as not "think[ing] about what something means beyond the numbers before you surpass it," which I can't commit to because it's so vague and abstract that I only think he's talking about steroids. Which is either no points, or the most points ever, because that's amazing.

But there is no rule as to how you are supposed to embrace the game and its history. We all come from somewhere and have our perspectives. Just as when I played in Philadelphia, Scott Rolen had no interest in being front and center, whereas Jimmy Rollins thrived at being front and center. Different players, different experiences.

Doug is right that there are no rules about embracing the game. However, he doesn't mention the "rule" about how you can't use steroids. This rule is called "the law."

Also, we're through 609 words in this story and not one of them has been "steroid." It's a story about Barry Bonds. It has to be getting closer.

Yet I was hopeful, as we all are, about who can come along to take the game to the next level, who can create a new legacy for the game and how they might do it.

And we don't want them to cheat. And do steroids.

Even with those hopes, baseball is a game we don't want to change so much all at once. We want to still recognize it after records have been shattered.


We want to have time to frame it in the proper context compared to what happened before.

If I was an FJM writer, which I am not, and will never be, I would go off on a tangent about OPS+ here. But that's neither here nor there. STEROIDS.

Just as so many steroid-induced players became unrecognizable in their physical attributes, so too did the statistics they suddenly could produce. As a result, the game underwent reasonable suspicion and no one could say for sure what new path the game was on.

God, thank you. It only took you >600 words to actually mention the reason Barry Bonds has an image problem, which is: He cheated, a fucking lot, he lied about it, he is/was an asshole, he broke the most hallowed record in baseball which was held by the nicest man who ever lived who had to do it when a ton of people still hated him just for the color of his skin, and then Bonds was just a general d-bag to you know EVERYONE FOREVER so he has a slight image problem.

But please, go on about how he can somehow fix his image problem by being a "diplomat for humanity."

But the time is ripe for a metamorphosis. Bonds performed for a city that is now a champion.

This is the most flawed logic of all time. "The Unabomber was from Atlanta. Atlanta won the World Series in 1995. Free the Unabomber!"

A place that can now open doors to new markets and new possibilities for this franchise and the game. Few have captured the minds, opinions and emotions of so many fans during his tenure as did Barry Bonds.

Negatively. He captured the "minds, opinions and emotions" of people who fucking hated him for destroying the game of baseball.

That type of impact could be channeled to bring to the forefront issues beyond the drug culture in sport or the waiting game within legal wrangling; it could transform a nation of fans in the spirit of its other trailblazers.

Little known fact: in the 1800s, a man named John Chapman was the biggest purveyor of apples and apple products in America. However, a great controversy arose when it turned out Chapman was putting harmful, illegal chemicals in his apples to make them grow big and delicious, and killed tons of people who loved apples, thus killing the American apple industry. Everyone hated Chapman for ruining apples for them, and he became a social pariah.

Fast forward to 1850, and Chapman decided to "channel his impact" on apples, to issues "beyond" how much he had poisoned apples for everyone, and through this nonsense wordage somehow he became -- you guessed it -- Johnny Appleseed.

The proof is in the pudding. Apple pudding.

Maybe it is too soon to know or understand Barry Bonds and what he or his work will mean to the game.

Maybe it is too soon to know or understand Barry Bonds.

He is 46.
He is three years out of baseball.
He... I... are you fucking serious?

The game may take the lessons from his career and apply it in its own way, see it as turning the page toward a cleaner game, a game of integrity, a renewal in a game that can still excite without patronizing superhumans on the diamond. He may not have intended it, but the game may put more emphasis on what transpires beyond the numbers, and that may well be his legacy.

Lesson: Don't be an asshole that does steroids.
Legacy: An asshole that did steroids.

Bonds still has an opportunity; the game is resilient, even forgiving, despite so many unwritten rules and biases. Maybe he will reach out and work for the greater game and start a new legacy. He just has to step beyond the small space of his personal batter's box.

...and into a time machine, back 10-15-20 years, and not do steroids, and then he'd just be an asshole.

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