This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
I had every intention to get off the baseball steroids story this week. But the hottest player in the game stands at the center of the storm and this week he stirred that storm into a hurricane.
Barry Bonds is supposed to swing into his twentieth season come April and he-s never been well-liked along the way. No, Barry Bonds has thrown around a super-sized ego and spitted out a two-decade string of unendearing remarks.
But even that mountain of Bonds unlikeability hasn-t kept his monstrous talent from carrying the sport over the last four or five years, the precise four or five years when he pumped up by about 40 pounds. I-m sure baseball execs cringe every time Bonds steps up to the microphone, dreading the faux-pas that will undoubtedly emanate from his lips. But they no doubt cheer each time he steps up to the plate. Likewise, Giants fans would probably love for Bonds to book surgery for a personality transplant. But they-ve fully embraced his ability to smack the ball in a high, unbelievably long arc, all the way out of the park and into a cozy watering hole called McCovey-s Cove, where ultra fans scurry around in kayaks as history sails their way. As one long-time Giants fan puts it, -I run to the TV when I hear Bonds is up at bat. I-m afraid I-ll miss something I-ll always wish I-d seen. Then he comes on for an interview and I leave. I-m afraid I-ll see something I-ll always wish I-d missed.-
It would have been better all the way around if we hadn-t come to know Barry Bonds over the last twenty years, the way Yankees fans never really did know M ickey Mantle and the sordid details of his love affair with the bottle. They just loved him for being the winner he was. Giants fans and anybody rooting for the game itself to command front-page headlines and stir up some collective, national fervor have just loved Bonds for being the winner he is, too.
Fans have accepted the fact that Bonds admitted to using creams and gels that were illegal steroids but that he says he had no idea were steroids at the time. Fans have forgiven him for responding to his alleged steroid use with statements such as -All this stuff about supplements, whatever. Man, it-s not like this is the Olympics-. Bonds has overcome his foot-in-mouth bunglings, overcome even his shady supplement regime, by swinging for the fences.
That brings us to this Tuesday when Bonds erupted at a press conference in Florida and said the media has broken him down and he may not return to play this season. That-s when a whole lot of that acceptance and forgiveness crumbled into a pile of broken dreams, like a once-magical bat disintegrating into sawdust.
Bonds had arthroscopic surgery last Thursday, the day slugger Mark McGwire was telling Congress he couldn-t answer any of their questions because his answers might incriminate him. For once and for all, we the public can officially mistrust McGwire-s fabulous single-season record of 70 homers, which he pretended to accomplish in 1998.
And now that Barry Bonds is poised to break two of the biggest records in all of sport, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron-s career homer numbers, he-s testy and sulky and going home with his heavy bat. It-s not the surgery. These guys make it back in three to four weeks from arthroscopes. It-s that his former mistress has now testified to a grand jury that for the nine years she was seeing Bonds, long before the creams and the gels, he was regularly using oral steroids. Instead of standing up and acting like a champion, on the field and in the urinalysis booth, Bonds throws his years of lies and unsportsmanlike behavior onto the press. We-re the ones who are robbing the public of this season-s possible heroics.
It-s time for the best player in the game to find some humility, to make some admissions. Otherwise, the voices that would have roared to witness him pass Babe Ruth and then Hank Aaron, will fade to disillusioned whispers.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that-s The Score.