The Desperate Barry Bonds
I'll start by saying that I feel a sense of awe and history when imagining the moment when Barry Bonds' 756th home run will sail over the outfield wall, sending him into the history books with the most career home runs, surpassing Hank Aaron. But unlike my colleagues David Kuo and Patton Dodd--call it their Christian forgiveness vs. my Jewish sense of justice--I feel myself overcome by a deep sense of sadness and more than a little outrage when contemplating Bonds's achievement.
I'm not some unforgiving absolutist who refuses to ever look past a person's faults and misdeeds. If Bonds was some rookie yearning to keep his spot in the big leagues, or some minor-leaguer desperate to get ahead, I'd feel sad but perhaps not angry, and be more inclined to understand and forgive the temptation to give into the weight of pressures, the unwillingness to see lifelong dreams die and the desperation to hold onto them at any cost. For that wayward act, I'd argue strenuously for a second chance, a way forward paved with mercy and understanding.
But that's not Bonds.
Some of you are thinking, Bonds is innocent is proven guilty, but I am neither prosecutor nor jury member, and to me, the evidence is clear. According to the reporters who've relentlessly pursued this story, Bonds's steroids use began in the late 90s, when Bonds was already a great player, a sure Hall of Fame inductee, albeit in the twilight of his career. At that time, a prodigious home run hitter--he had more than 400 at that point--became an astounding one. His body grew and he went up in cap size, which is apparently a telltale sign of steroids. (No matter how much we work out, we're unlikely to see our hat heads suddenly expand noticeably.) At a time in his career when he could expect his production to tail off, it grew--a lot.
Since then, Bonds has hit over 300 home runs. Yes, he's about to enter the history books. And yes, the game of baseball is riveting like it hasn't been in while, thanks largely to his pursuit of Aaron's record. And I do believe a record is a record, and it would be silly to put some sort of asterisk or qualifier on his achievement.
Yet I find little sympathy inside myself for him. Starting to inject oneself with performance-enhancing steroids so late in an already-amazing career strikes me as just craven, a self-loathing act of desperation, a statement that being great isn't good enough, that nothing less than the history books--nothing less than god-like perfection--will suffice. Bonds wasn't--isn't--some striving rookie, he was already an established star, a role model, a leader. He could have become one of baseball's elder statesman, retiring gracefully with one of the best careers ever. Instead he chose to artificially prolong it, making a mockery of the natural aging process and his God-given body, as well as his opponents and teammates, and the game itself.
I believe strongly in redemption and forgiveness, but in my mind those are earned by remorse and repentance. I've seen no evidence that Bonds has acknowledged his sins, let alone repented for them. I celebrate his achievement as historic, and part of me is excited by him. But I hope he at least has the grace to walk away from the game now.