Sunday, May 07, 2006

Why We Cheer Bonds (And Why You Shouldn't Ridicule Us For It)
By Blogger

With Barry Bonds a gnat's eyelash from passing Babe Ruth on the career home run list, it seems an appropriate time to address some issues. As a native San Franciscan and a Giants fan, I am deeply disturbed by how other teams' fans and various media members have chosen to portray me and my orange and black-clad rooting brethren.

Contrary to the slings and arrows of those from outside the San Francisco sphere, we are not delusional. This may not be apparent to the casual observer, but, while we have our share of brainless and soulless, just like every other fan base, I'm confident the vast majority of Giants fans understand that Barry Bonds has provided absolutely no evidence to counter the detailed accusations that he has knowingly used anabolic steroids and other illegal substances. Furthermore, I'm confident that most of us understand why so many people would be angry that, according to the avalanche of evidence, Bonds committed criminal acts and cheated baseball.

Given that, why cheer for him? We do it because his actions were no worse than any number of actions by other ballplayers, and, therefore, not enough to abandon him. Matt Lawton used steroids. He, unlike Bonds, tested positive and was suspended by Major League Baseball. Jorge Piedra used steroids. He, unlike Bonds, tested positive and was suspended. You want a big star? In leaked grand jury testimony, Jason Giambi admitted using steroids and human growth hormone, unlike Bonds, who, as far as we know, has never admitted using substances he knew to be illegal. Among non-baseball transgressions, Rafael Furcal has been arrested twice on DUI charges. According to government figures, in 2004 nearly 17,000 people were killed in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. As far as I can find, there is no hard evidence of Bonds putting anyone else's life in danger, as Furcal did twice. If character and morality are so important, where is the scorn for these ballplayers? Where was the cavalcade of writers from major media outlets denouncing the very real evil of driving drunk in the wake of either of Furcal's arrests? (Okay, there was at least one.)

Monday, May 3, Bonds stepped to the plate in front of a half-filled Miller Park in Milwaukee. The spectators booed lustily. I guarantee you, they were not booing merely because he was the best hitter on the opposing team, or because he was the best hitter in baseball five years running until last season, and this season is arguably still one of the top three or four. They weren't booing him in a spirited hometown defense of Hank Aaron, or because he's known as a jerk. Those elements were probably mixed deep into the spectators' motivations, but you, I, and they know that they were booing primarily because Bonds used steroids. I don't have a problem with fans booing Bonds. This is no defense of the man. Remember, I and many other Giants fans operate under the presumption that he cheated, and we expect him to be booed. However, speak derisively of Giants fans cheering our player, and that bothers me. Brewers fans choose to boo Bonds even though they have their own beloved cheater whom they cheer with abandon. Derrick Turnbow, the Brewers' closer, tested positive for steroids while a minor leaguer in the Angels' organization, and received a two-year ban from international competition.

Should I razz Brewers fans for taking pleasure in the feats and successes of a convicted cheater? Remember, just because someone was once caught does not mean he has stopped cheating. For all we know, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Derrick Turnbow are cheating to their hearts' content by using a new generation of illegal and undetectable performance enhancers. Giants fans dont boo opposing players just because we think they're cheaters. Not only would that by patently hypocritical, but, speaking for myself, the Bonds experience has taught me that the suspicion must fall on every elite athlete.

It is unfair to single out Giants fans, implicitly or explicitly, as delusional, the worst kind of hero-worshippers, in denial, or any other condescending term of that nature, without including every other fan of professional and big time college sports with them. The damn shame of this era of illegal substances is not that a few men went too far and passed Roger Maris and Babe Ruth under false pretenses. The damn shame of it is that football players are expected to cheat in order to succeed, from high school on up. Do you think a man can achieve and maintain an aerobic athleticism at 320 pounds (often more) without chemical help? Do you see what happens to the athletes once they stop playing? They shrink dramatically. Let's not leave basketball out of the discussion. PED and recreational drug use in the NBA has to come under scrutiny if we're also going to discuss other top-tier athletes. If anecdotal accounts of marijuana use in the NBA are anywhere near accurate, then how effective can the league's drug policy be? These men, all significantly taller and larger than the average man, perform at an intense, world-class, level for a six-month regular season, and, yet, there is no widespread suspicion that they're using undetectable PEDs? As for baseball, its economic system is so disparate between minors and majors that the desperation to stay in the higher level pushes men to use substances that nobody knows what they do to the body. We know amphetamines were endemic. God knows someone, somewhere, is swallowing a combination of pig semen and designer HGH in hopes of getting that major league salary.

Splinters, logs, casting stones, etc. It's not just a Giants thing. It's a fine time to be a jaded, disillusioned, sports fan. Any team. Any sport. But if you still cheer, I understand.


Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Couldn't agree more David. People rationalize it anyway they can; I read a Yankee fan's letter in New York Newsday the other day which said, I kid you not, that he would cheer Giambi every time he was up because he admitted to his steroid use and Bonds (who he only referred to as "that cheater in SF") did not. Of course the argument makes no sense, because that still makes Giambi just as big a cheater as Bonds and also neglects to mention Giambi never admitted to steroid use outside of the Grand Jury testimony. Techincally, since that was supposed to be confidential, Giambi admitted nothing to 99.99999999999999 percent of the world. So yeah, it's all about what gets you through the night.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't know who's done steroids. I have suspicions but that doesn't make them valid. So in the end I'm not going to boo Bonds, Giambi or anyone else for their "supposed" steroid use when I have no idea in what context it was used under. In other words, if over 50 percent of baseball used, then what's the point on riding a two or three players for it?

3:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you are missing the point. The main reason fans (like myself) hate Barry Bonds and think that anyone rooting for him is a jackass is due to only one reason. It's not race or personality or timing or anything else. The reason fans hat Bonds far more than Giambi, Furcal, or even Macgwire(sp?) is this is THE-FUCKING-CAREER-HOME-RUN-RECORD! It the most hallowed record in sports. Personally I would feel indignant for less than 15 mintues if Bonds were breaking the career steals, strikeouts, games won, any htting record, or even his own single season record. But,(and this is obviously an illogical, emotional response) if Bonds breaks Hank's record I think the MLB might as well fold. If/when he breaks the Babe's record he'll already make great progress towrds ruining the game forever. I can't help but hope that Bonds has a career-ending injury or gets arrested for child porn, or even has a crazed fan go Mark David Chapman on him. ANYTHING to stop him from destroying the legacy of the game (any further than it already has been). I'm 25 years old and there's more people around the country like me, of all ages, than MLB, ESPN and you, David, seem to realize. Bonds should be sitting this season out on whatever technicality MLB could find, because many people have already stopped caring about baseball and pissing them off more with this bullshit is just going to give us the impetus to actively try to get otheres to stop caring about baseball. forever.

4:16 PM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

Mr./Mrs. Anonymous, this reaction is exactly what I'm talking about. I'm saying that the results don't matter when you're talking about the integrity of the game. Either a player violated the game's integrity by cheating, or he didn't. Just because Carlos Almanzar only pitched five innings last year while, apparently, on the juice doesn't make his crime on the game any less serious. What makes what Bonds actually DID worse than what McGwire did? Big Mac broke the single season home run record, ostensibly while on illegal substances. He passed the 500 home run mark. Cardinals fans cheered him wildly, even after the androstenedione revelation should have thrown up a major red flag. When Jason Giambi hits a home run, Yankees fans cheer wildly. When Derrick Turnbow finishes off a game, Brewers fans cheer wildly. If you're indignant about Bonds using steroids, you damn well better be pissed at McGwire, Giambi, Turnbow, et al, too. Just saying that because Bonds got better results from his cheating he deserves vilification and the others do not is ludicrous. Similar to what Ben wrote above, I can't boo any ballplayer for being a cheater because I suspect all of them. It sucks, but it is what it is.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The career home run record is different. Maybe it shouldn't be, maybe everyone should think like you(seriously, it would be heathlier and more realistic). But it IS different and we DO all think like this.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Matt Brown said...

Once again, I have to object to these defenses of Bonds. The career home run record is the most hallowed record in sports, and yes, it is hugely different than Yankee fans cheering Giambi or Brewer fans cheering Turnbow.

An overwhelming stack of evidence exists that Bonds was using illegal substances. Furthermore, he posted the biggest power numbers of his career while he was using. We will never know how many career homers Bonds would have wound up with if he had stayed clean (550, 625...?), but he sure would not be where he is now. So this is a tainted record.

Here's why this is far different from Giambi's and Turnbow's situations. Those guys are NOT vying for a major career record. I'm sorry, but I can't get too riled up over whether Giambi ends his career with 450 or 350 career homers. Quibble over that when he comes up on the Hall of Fame ballot, not now. And Turnbow? Please. His infraction occurred when he was shuttling between the major and minor leagues. So, in the absence of any evidence that Giambi and Turnbow are currently using, I see no reason to boo them for their previous sins. Bonds is different. The whole reason why he is the lead story on SportsCenter every night is because he's chasing the career homer record. And he built that record on illegal drug usage. When I boo Bonds, I do so chiefly because the record which now defines him is fraudulent. He does deserve the boos he gets, and I sincerely hope whoever catches the ball which tops Ruth never gives Bonds the satisfaction of owning it.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Matt Brown said...

A little P.S. on this so I also cover McGwire...

If you guys were suckers for punishment and wanted to listen to some bad radio, you could dig out old tapes of the "Cheap Seats" in August of '98 and find that I was highly suspicious of McGwire and Sosa at the time. That being said, there was no public evidence in '98 that McGwire was using anything illegal (andro was legal at the time), so I couldn't really be too critical of fans for cheering him, either.

Of course, we know more today. McGwire's performance in front of Congress last year was disgraceful. McGwire would not get my vote for the Hall of Fame.

8:29 PM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

Matt, your argument that Bonds deserves scorn that Giambi and Turnbow don't doesn't fly because cheating is cheating and compromising the integrity of the game can't be tolerated in any instance. When someone wins an MVP award and carries his team to the playoffs thanks to illegal supplementation, I'd say that's a historic fraud. When someone uses illegal means to get to the major leagues and/or keep his job there, that's compromising the integrity of the game, and the ripple effect extends beyond just the Brewers into the Angels organization, and perhaps beyond. What Bonds, in all likelihood, did and could still be doing was/is terrible not because he had an advantage Ruth and Aaron didn't have, but because, in theory, he had an advantage his peers were not allowed to have (let's not get started on Ruth's advantage of not playing against people of color). However, more players were using than anyone suspected. You are perfectly justified in booing Bonds and cursing his existence. However, once you condemn him, it doesn't make sense to dismiss every other openly presumed cheater, and it doesn't make sense to criticize Giants fans for cheering him when EVERYONE is suspect.

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wanna know why people really boo Bonds? He's an asshole and nobody likes him, that's why. It really is that simple - you make a good argument about why booing him just for steroid use is a bit hypocritical on some people's part, but there's more to it than that.

Turnbow, Piedra, Almanzar, and any other lesser ballplayer you want to name is a different case: they used steroids, were caught, and served their punishment. They have paid their penance and as such deserve our forgiveness. Bonds is a different story - not only is he cheating, but he is lying about not cheating, all while chasing down the most hallowed record in sports. To top it off, he's a huge asshole. Maybe he'll never get his comeuppance from a 50-game ban, but getting the living piss booed out of him everywhere he goes and going down in history as the most hated ballplayer since Ty Cobb can be punishment enough.

I'm a Rockies fan and I'll cheer Jorge Piedra from here to doomsday. At least he fessed up, admitted he made a mistake, and served his time. That's worth forgiving. Bonds isn't.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Retch said...

"The most hallowed record in sports..."

I didn't get the memo about "The most hallowed record in sports..."

Bonds is good for baseball. Only fanatics would follow baseball from year to year, but now the tradition and presitige and integrity is at risk from steriod users - good drama - regular people will tune in and baseball will make more money.

Bonds is good for baseball, he is good for marketing, and without him, there are piles of cash that are not being exploited.

Remember "The most hallowed record in sports..." is considered that because ordinary people are entertained by home runs. Baseball uses home runs to build its fan base, it revitalized after the strike with the home run and a record chase, where are the Sabremetric people saying that the most hallowed record in sports should be fans like all sports fans are sentimental easily fooled suckers ... mostly because they want to believe the fairy tale.

Go whomever!

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Knuckles said...

Your article is a joke, and it's eerie how similar to Bonds you are actually acting. Instead of addressing the issue, you spin around in a little circle and throw shit on everyone else, casting doubts and aspersions everywhere you think it might take some of the focus off of your beloved Barry.

Your bit on the NBA is laughable. Do you understand the idea behind the fact that there IS a cream of the crop? That hundreds of thousands of people grow to well above average heights, and the lesser athletes are winnowed out at each successive level? That has nothing to do with steroids; it has to do with genetics, luck, and the sheer numbers of people on this planet.

Are you kidding with the Almanzar comparison? Seriously, any shred of credibility you might have had completely evaporated just then. A marginally borderline major leaguer who GETS CAUGHT hurts the game as much as a superstar who made himself into a megastar using steroids late in his career because (sniff sniff weep) he feels jealous of the attention other juiceheads are getting?

I've never come across a 10 year old kid with a Carlos Almanzar jersey, but you go to SBC/PacBell/Balco park 81 nights a year and you see thousands of little Bonds 25's running around, tacit $100 acknowledgements from their daddies that it's OK to cheat, as long as you don't get caught.

Rooting for Bonds (or McGwire/Sosa/Giambi/Sheffield) is like rooting for the Enron guys to get off scot free- a total and complete joke.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Are you freaking KIDDING me? Bonds is good for baseball? You must be joking. If anything, the casual observer is looking at baseball right now and mocking the fact that one of the greatest records in the sport (is that better for you?) is about to be taken down by a cheater, and that the league doesn't give a damn enough to put a stop to it.

Maybe Bonds is putting more money in MLB's pocket, but in the long run, he and this fradulent home run chase are very, VERY bad for the game itself.

5:10 PM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

Anon re:Piedra/Almanzar: So, you're perfectly willing to forgive Piedra and Almanzar because they each served a ten game suspension? Give me a break. Anyone who has gotten caught has been either stupid, freakishly careless, or both. Fact: Barry Bonds cheated. Fact: Barry Bonds has never tested positive in any MLB test. There is no reason to believe that Piedra, Almanzar, Turnbow, Giambi, Bonds, or anyone else has stopped. If anything, all four have been PROVEN cheaters and should be regarded with more suspicion to this day.

Knuckles, as I stated a couple times, I completely understand why people boo Bonds and why they are upset with him. The problem is, though, that you're willing to throw me and others off a cliff just because we happen to think that the wider problem is what's terrible about the steroids era and that what Bonds actually did is no worse and no different from any number of other players. The wider problem, of course, is that getting that illegal edge has, apparently, become a near-necessity. As stated above, to say that Bonds's actual actions are/were worse simply because he had more success is ignoring that cheating tarnishes the game in all its forms. And you said nothing to refute the point about the NBA. My point is that in an era when undetectable PED use is endemic, we don't know who legitimately is the cream of the crop or not. Case in point: Yao Ming was allegedly BRED to be a world-class basketball player. God knows what lengths the Chinese government went to to train him when he was a youngster. You've exactly proven my point about the NBA and the NFL, which is that there is no scrutiny because people simply assume that freaks are freaks, and that you can't make those guys. Well, if Bonds went from being a DB to a linebacker between 1997-1999, how many actual linebackers beyond Bill Romanowski are cheating?

Face it. Everyone is suspect. I'll give you that there's a difference between being proven to have cheated and suspicion of cheating, but suspicion is just as damaging to the legitimacy of the game.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous t-dawg said...

Bonds is simply the greatest. Had 75% of his peers not cheated, I doubt he wouldn't have either... but what, exactly, is wrong with steroids? I didn't use them when I played in college, mainly because of cost. Yet my coach had me on creatine. My dad had me on every vitamin mineral and over the counter pill known to man. Why are these "okay" when we don't absolutely know they don't cause later repercusions. I bulked up from a 188 lb. senior in h.s. to a 212 lb. stud-- and i wouldn't have been able to without the supplements.

Who is drawing the line, and why?

From my days I can tell you that a lot of guys used. And I was hoops, not baseball. Those baseball dudes were willing to go a lot further for muscle, in most cases. And football? even farther.

I don't fault Barry any more than I fault each and every one of us that goes over the speed limit 5-15 MPH when the flow of traffic was just that. Is it his fault his car was better suited for the higher speed than the rest of us? If we wouldn't all have been pushing our cars to the edge of the safe limit, he may have been happy himself to be the nicest car on the freeway. But once the P.O.S.'s started passing him, he said, "F#$* that, I'm getting in the fast lane too."

The argument that the home run record is the most hallowed record in sports is ridiculous. There are no hallowed records when profit is at the heart of the game. Hallowed is a holy word, with religious overtones. It is a word that should not be thrown around lightly, and when every other new stadium is smaller than ever, the pitcher's mound hasn't been raised, the bats are harder, the balls are harder and hitters can wear body armor... wtf is hallowed about those thoughts?

The record will be broken eventually once again. Maybe by squeeky clean A-rod. Regardless, I for one will never cheer for him ever again--he left us for Texas because he said "he wanted to win," not the real reason... money.

Hallowed my ass.

Bonds is the greatest hitter I've ever seen. I grew up in Seattle. Saw Griff when he was "the Kid." Saw A-rod robbed of an MVP. No comparison. Appreciate the spectacle.

11:49 PM  

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