Accept it kids, the most hallowed record in sports is going down, and soon. Barry Bonds is back cranking dingers like he used to, and at the current pace will become baseball's all time home run leader sometime in early June. There has been plenty of time to assess what the impact will be, and how baseball will react. Hank Aaron has already made it known that he will not be following Bonds around once the record is poised to fall, and even Bonds is okay with that. As for Bud Selig, let's just say it would not be entirely surprising if he is suddenly called away to Asia in June for some emergency marketing trip for the next World Baseball Classic or something. The man is avoiding this like a picked on kid being pursued by the class bully as the clock inches toward 3:00.
The fact that Bonds might* have cheated is the elephant in the room here, except everyone is looking at it and saying "Damn, there's a freaking elephant in this room!". Fan reaction is largely against Bonds, except in the San Francisco area, naturally. The entire issue centers around the alleged enhancements he might have used, nothing more. Not satisfied with such a cut and dried story, ABC News decided to be complete idiots and inject race into the equation, as if that had any bearing. The results, such as they were, showed that - surprise! - blacks were on Barry's side, whites were not. Just another example of trying to keep a brother down, right? Either way, it created some manufactured controversy. Not only does race baiting sell, it was still fresh in the public's mind after the Imus controversy.
Let's see if I can understand the findings here. White people, on the whole, do not want a black man, Barry Bonds, to break a record which is currently held by.....another black man? Really? It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Bonds changed hat sizes three times in five years, added 40 pounds of muscle in his late thirties, and subsequently hit more home runs in five years than at any other period of his career? Nope, it's the skin color all the way! Thanks, ABC, for connecting those dots for us.
In 1974, as Hank Arron was about to pass Babe Ruth, I was nine years old. Even then, the number 714 held a special significance for me, knowing that it was the biggest record in sports. To me, it was incredibly exciting knowing that someone was about to pass The Babe - skin color meant absolutely nothing. I really had no idea of how much crap Aaron had to put up with from bigoted morons who were upset by this fact. I would later come to learn just how much he endured while pursuing the mark, and how well he handled it. Oh, and he never had to pee in a cup and sweat out the results either. Funny, that.
The fact that Barry Bonds is a jerk is not unknown, and he has gone to great lengths to prove just how much of a pain in the ass he can be. He might be the best teammate in the world (and that is debatable), but he has never ceased to show how his public persona is that of a petulant, spoiled superstar who is tortured by the onslaught of fame and money. Cry me a river, Barry. Hank Aaron, on the other hand, has never shown himself to be anything short of pure class, and let's not forget how much real racism he had to put up with on his way to the top of the home run list. That, more than anything else, is the saddest part of the record falling - the person doing it is a jerk who is virtually impossible to root for, and that would be true no matter what his color or nationality.
Besides, Alex Rodriguez will own this mark before he's done, and we'll probably look back on this whole period and wonder what all the fuss was about.
* not proven. After all, I might be dating Jessica Alba. Prove I'm not.