by David Sisler

Ah, spring, when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of baseball.

If you are as old as I am, you may remember that expression saying something about fancies turning to thoughts of love. Call me cynical, but I have been watching the countdown to the start of spring training since the clock ran out in Heinz Field on January 23. For the Steeler Nation, it is once again, “Wait till next year!” I am so sick of next year.

But it is officially baseball season, with opening day in sight, which means that Barry Bonds is his old surly self.

And what a lot he has to be surly about this year.

Jason Giambi apologized. Sort of.

Jose Canseco has a new book in which he accuses everyone except my Mom of using steroids, and if she had played baseball, I guess he would have accused her, too.

And enquiring sports writers want to know, “Did you juice up, Barry?”

Mr. Bonds, who says he doesn’t know what cheating is, does know how to play the race card – bent, wrinkled, dog-eared, faded and overused though it is.

Quizzed about steroids, Bonds believes he is being scrutinized more than other baseball players because he is closing in on Babe Ruth. He said, “Because Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and Babe Ruth ain’t black, either. I’m black. Blacks, we go through a little more. ... I’m not a racist though, but I live in the real world. I’m fine with that.”

What real world, some wonder, does Barry Bonds live in?

The real world where everyone is paid a salary similar to Barry’s $18,000,000, or the real world where starting teachers – after four years of college costing $40,000 to $60,000 – average $29,564 a year?

The real world where Hall of Famers make an out seven out of ten times, or the real world of sales where if you don’t make your quota you are unemployed?

The real world where a family of four Giants fans will pay $260 (add processing fees and it will be more like $300) just for their seats in the Club Infield section, farther away from the action than home plate is from first base? Throw in parking, stadium food and drink, and souveniers, and you could leave four or five Ben Franklins at the ball yard. And all to help pay Barry’s salary. Priceless.

As regular readers of this space know, I frequently admit that, along with Forest Gump, I’m not a smart man. Barry says he is taking all of this heat because he is chasing Babe Ruth. But I think I remember that Babe Ruth is the Number Two home run leader of all time. A few years ago when Bonds broke Mark McGuire’s single season home run record, no one talked about Barry chasing Sammy Sosa.

Hammerin’ Hank Aaron holds baseball’s all-time home run record at 755. Ruth is second. Sure he hit 714, but that is only good enough for second place.

Ignoring the fact that he is really chasing Hank, Barry plays the race card.

Stop the presses! Hank Aaron is an African-American just like Barry Bonds. I know you knew that, but Barry “Race Card” Bonds must not.

Who gets worked up about second place? Did you ever hear a group of cheer leaders or sports fans chanting, “We’re number two! We’re number two!”

But in a world where it’s all about Barry Bonds (and that world is inside Barry’s mind) facts do not matter, only Barry matters. And so Barry hurts all members of his race – and all of the fans of his game – by his irresponsibility.

Look, I know Barry has skills I have never possessed. The closest I’ve ever been to a major league fast ball was the 6th row of Section 117 at PNC Park, or maybe Row 10 of Section 108 at Turner Field. If I was standing behind a sheet of transparent aluminum six inches thick, I wouldn’t let a major league pitcher throw at me from 60 feet 6 inches. But I do know who’s in first. And I do take responsibility for my own actions. So far, Barry Bonds gets an asterisk in both cases.


Copyright 2005 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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