I have always believed that if you want an accurate reflection of American society, all you need to do is look at its athletes. Athletes are, after all, the focus for millions of adoring fans and fanatics, many of whom try to be just like that athlete who has become their role model, often in place of a far more deserving family member.
Well, the inevitable has finally happened. No last-minute injury, no last-minute perjury indictment, no last-minute intervention from Commissioner Selig. Barry Bonds has officially broken Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. August 7, 2007 will forever be a dark day in the history of America's glorious national pasttime. But for once I'm not heaping all the blame on Barry, for he is merely a reflection of our dying values system in America.
For years, Bonds has been under the public microscope over whether or not he took steroids. His best friend currently sits in prison because he won't talk about it, and we as Americans are slaves to the Phariseetic idea that if it can't be proven in a court of law then it simply didn't happen. That's right. I said slaves, only this time it doesn't denote skin color, but rather a state of mind. Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada couldn't have spelled it out any clearer, and only in America would they be the ones who barely avoid the jail time.
To acclaim Bonds for this achievement is a gigantic slap in the face to every player in the game's history (well, at least before Canseco came along). It reveals just how cheap and pathetic our beloved pasttime is today, that players would resort to cowardly methods to break records they couldn't have come close to otherwise (not to mention the sabermetrics that every player seems to be judged by, as opposed to the immeasurable intangibles he brings to the table).
We're talking about a guy who hit 73 homers in one year and never hit more than 49 in any other. It should be painfully obvious to anyone with an IQ larger than their shoe size. Barry Bonds is a cheat, and belongs next to Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson on the sidewalk peeking through the window at HOF immortality denied. After all, if Bonds gets in, the other two (especially Jackson) deserve automatic reinstatement to the game.
Even when given a chance to act humble and magnanimous at the postgame press conference, Bonds still chose to remain defiant, boasting to reporters, "This record is not tainted at all. At all. You can say whatever you want." This behavior and attitude clearly depict a player, and by extension a society that, as a whole, has forgotten the meaning of integrity. We are so morally relative that most of us don't even know the difference between right and wrong anymore. Now, the reason people do what they do is simply because they can, and it's sick. I was listening to ESPN Radio tonight before I learned Barry had broken the record, and some idiot had the nerve to say that all the Bonds haters were bashing him because he is black. That just proves what some people will do when they run out of reason. The race card is always the safe card.
I'll say it again. Slavery was the greatest moral taint this country has ever seen, made even worse by a bunch of backward southerners whom it took another hundred years to get the message that we're all equal. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. But the key word here is equal. Bonds is not on trial in the public eye because he is black. He is on trial because he cheated the game he claims to love and the fans who ensure its very existence every time they step through a turnstile.
When are we, as fans, going to stand up and demand accountability from the players whose very salaries we are responsible for? I mean most players are so distanced from their fans that they don't even take time to sign autographs at the ballpark anymore. We as fans need to take back control of our game from the corporate interests and the general state of apathy that has set in. One area in which I do credit Barry Bonds is his steadfast refusal to become enslaved to corporations who would pay him money to hawk their products but would, in the end, leave him little better than a corporate mannequin with a vanilla personality (a la A-Rod).
Of all those who could pass him in a few years, it's clearly obvious that A-Rod has the best shot, being only 31 and already reaching 500 homers. My heart cries out for Ken Griffey Jr., who should have been the one making history last night. My prayer will now become that he stays healthy until he's 43 (he's 37 now), but I know that his injury history makes it unlikely. But the player I hope stands the best chance in a few years is Albert Pujols. I wish him luck.
In the meantime, Barry Bonds stands alone on a pedestal, which is really fitting since he's made it abundantly clear that it's all about him. But for once I cannot heap all the blame on him, for it was our moral relativity that put him on that pedestal.