Mon, 29 May 2006 05:00:00
I’m a lapsed baseball fan. The 1994 strike/lock out diminished my lifelong passion for baseball. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area as a fanatical Giants fan. I’m just old enough to have experienced the end of the Mays–Marichal-McCovey–Perry era. As a mere lad I saw Bobby Bonds hit a grand slam home run in his big league debut; he’s still the only player to have ever done that. As a result I’ve always had a soft spot for Bobby’s son Barry.
Yesterday Barry Bonds hit his 715th homer and passed Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list. To say that Barry’s pursuit of the Babe has been controversial is an understatement. Barry has never exactly been a warm and fuzzy press friendly superstar. Plus he’s been under a cloud of suspicion because of his alleged steroid use. There are many people who think that steroids are the *only* reason Bonds has attained such dizzying heights. I’m not one of them.
Let’s get the loaded question out of the way. Do I think he took steroids? Yes he probably did and he lied about it too. I don’t think taking steroids without close medical supervision is a good idea. The side effects are nasty indeed: I believe that if steroids were called “ball shrinking juice” very few young jocks would take them. I think that steroids have probably played a role in Barry’s numbers BUT they’re not the *only* reason he has excelled. First, 6 years ago Barry went from a pitcher’s ballpark (cold windy Candlestick Park) to a park that was tailored to his swing. Second, the new aerodynamic whippet thin bats help *all* hitters; especially the great ones like Barry Bonds. Finally, the man he’s now chasing Henry Aaron had his best home run years at the end of his career after leaving cold Milwaukee and moving to a hitter friendly stadium in Atlanta. Sound familiar?
In short, I think that lazy sportswriters and even lazier fans have fixated on steroids as the sole explanation for Barry’s success because it’s easier than looking at the complexity of the situation. It’s just like everything in life: people crave simplicity and loathe complexity; that’s the kind of thinking that elected and re-elected the Beavis-Duce ticket. Al Gore and John Kerry are complicated men and George W Bush is a simpleton. Electing the idiot was easier than thinking…
Finally I believe that there’s a lot of humbug and hypocrisy surrounding the issue of steroid use in sports. Imagine hearing that you could take a pill that would make you the *best* at what you do. Who wouldn’t try such a pill at least once? You might not keep doing it if the side effects were spooky BUT if say a surgeon could pop a pill that made them the best in the world they’d do it in a heartbeat. That’s what Barry Bonds and the others have done. It’s called human nature.