It’s a sad day for baseball fans.As I read Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams’ article in Sports Illustrated Wednesday, which accuses mega-slugger Barry Bonds of rampant steroid use, I was reminded of the words Paul Simon wrote almost 40 years ago:
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
What makes it such a sad day is not that baseball has forfeited another hero, it’s that the game itself has lost what was left of its innocence.
Fainaru-Wada and Williams’ indictment of Bonds is truly comprehensive. Boasting more than 200 sources, grand jury testimony and witness interviews, finding a hole in the paper trail against Bonds is a tall order. And Bonds’ categorical denials hold little weight either. The idea that an athlete who makes his living with his physical performance would be unaware of what substances he was putting in his body is either totally untrue or woefully negligent on Bonds’ part.
The question is: How does this affect Bonds once-impressive record-breaking feats? Having already topped Mark McGwire’s single-season home-run record (which is also dubious), Bonds is quickly approaching Hank Aaron’s 755 career home-run record, which stands as the last offensive record from baseball’s now long-gone years of innocence.
Whether baseball commissioner Bud Selig (or Bonds himself) acknowledges it, the steroid controversy does affect the record books. Does Barry Bonds’ record stand against anything put up by Roger Maris, Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle? Of course not.
These records were measurements of pure sport. The records set by Bonds have an outlying catalyst – namely steroids. Though Bonds did have a successful career before noticeably bulking up in ’98, he wasn’t making Maris turn over in his grave before he started using. Anyway, unlike ball players today, most records before steroids were set back when the athletes were just drunk. If anything, athletes were playing with a disadvantage.
Bonds’ drive for the record is tainted. When Aaron approached the career home run record, previously held by Ruth, he fought racism and prejudice. According to the Sports Illustrated article, Bonds started taking steroids because he was jealous of the notoriety fellow slugger McGwire received after he shattered Maris’ single-season home run record.
Finally, whether steroid use was illegal in baseball at the time doesn’t change the fact that it was ethically reprehensible.
As a baseball fan, I’m disgusted. I’m disgusted that in the record books, Ted Williams’ .400 batting average is going to be only a line away from a “baseball player” who is really nothing more than a genetically engineered lab rat. I’m disgusted to think that Bonds’ plaque will sit between Yogi Berra and George Brett’s plaques in the Hall of Fame.
I’m disgusted that the league of Jackie Robinson continues to sit idly by, as cheaters destroy the game I, and many other Americans, love.
Baseball is the sport of the American people – the national pastime. Growing up in South Florida, I can still remember the first time my dad took me to spring training game. I hounded ball players for autographs. We bought hot dogs, I tried to catch foul balls, and was hooked on baseball for life.
Or so I thought.
It’s just not really baseball these days. These days, it’s a sport corrupted by our era, pumped full of pills, and dressed in the clothes of yesterday’s heroes.
Now, I just feel foolish believing that a single sport could somehow embody the spirit of our entire country.
Joe DiMaggio died seven years ago this Wednesday. Wherever he is, once again, our nation turns its lonely eyes to him, and those, now, forever, long-gone innocent days.
Features editor Darren White is a junior news-editorial major from Tyler.