Monday, August 06, 2007

Barry Bonds - No Super Hero

"As far as Hank Aaron is concerned, if a certain player breaks his home run record, it's not a question of an asterisk. There probably ought to be an 'Rx' next to it." George Allen

In all the hoopla over Barry Bonds tying Hank Aaron's home run record, the real elephant in the room is being ignored. Bonds' almost certain use of performance-enhancing steroids makes him the poster boy for our country's moral decline.

From the President to the Supreme Court to Congress to the Catholic Church to Scooter Libby to Lance Armstrong to college athletes to crazed Little League dads ... the message has become loud and clear:

Cheating is the American Way. Only Cheaters Win.

When big money's involved, cheating--and the excuses for it--multiply exponentially. In government, business, schools and especially in amateur and professional sports.

Barry Bonds is a great athlete who used steroids to become even greater. That's cheating. Period.

Yet the rationale goes like this: everybody uses steroids today and Bonds still stands out. Therefore he's obviously the best, no matter what.

As a Hall of Fame member? Maybe. If not for the cheating.

As a legitimate competitor for Hank Aaron's record? No. No. No.

In this day and age there's a financial reason to overlook widespread steroid use. If all juicers were benched, virtually every major league baseball team would be decimated.

Who wants to see a bunch of non-juiced regular guys play real baseball on prime time TV? No spectacular catches, no 97 MPH pitches, no monster home runs.

Fans pay to see those big home runs. To see fast balls screaming over the plate. To see heroes in super human action all over the field.

Team owners pay those so-called heroes millions to give the people what they want. And turn a blind eye to the blatant cheating that's become necessary to make it all happen.

Baseball used to be a scandal-lite sport. Think about it. The Chicago Black Sox and Pete Rose. Two scandals spanning one century. About gambling, not doping.

Okay, I'll throw in the McGwire-Sosa reportedly steroid-fueled and definitely PR-generated home run contest.

A drop in the bucket compared to the honest accomplishments of the great ones. Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, you can probably name more than I can. Real heroes for kids to admire.

They--and many others like them--were great athletes. They understood their roles and played the sport in all its decent, All-American glory.

Some might have been jerks off the field (not Aaron, from all accounts the best kind of gentleman). But on the field they played fair. Displayed the essence of sportsmanship.

Yes, it's just a game. But it's the National Pastime. A recognized symbol of our country, our culture, our moral compass.

Kids play it. On fields and streets. On teams and on their own. And if we can't teach them fair play and the importance of reaching with all their honest might for the brass ring, we might as well give up.

My kid's all grown up. I'm glad he never had Barry Bonds--or George Bush--as a role model.

Barry Bonds may be Superman on the field. But off the field he doesn't come close to standing for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

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