Yeah, Barry Bonds is a jerk and a prima donna. And sure, Hank Aaron has more grace and dignity in his pinky finger than Bonds has in his entire body, especially that Death Star-sized noggin of his. Based on class alone, Bonds deserves to take the title of All-Time Home Run King from Hank Aaron about as much as I deserve to succeed George Clooney as People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.

But then again, Barry Bonds has already taken a lot of flak from fans and the media that he didn’t deserve. As Will Munny said in my favorite line in my favorite western, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

He is the poster child for the juiced-up era in sports. Not just in baseball. He represents the whole thing because most of the fans and media look the other way or plead apathy whenever football players, cyclists and track stars get busted.

But Bonds did not invent steroids. Nor did he popularize them. In fact, he reportedly had no interest in them until he saw a couple of one-dimensional frauds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, get showered with cheers from a grateful nation for using them to supposedly save baseball.

Bonds did, however, give performance enhancing drugs a face. A scowling, black face, to be exact, and there’s nothing that makes Americans more uncomfortable than that. After two decades of ignoring the issue, suddenly we had to do something about it.

We had to do something about it, but not for the health of the players, or to protect the children, mind you, but for the sake of a record.

A record that was initially set by men who didn’t have to bat or compete against their black peers. A record that until now was held by a man who played in an era when amphetamines were a staple in all clubhouses. A record that Bonds himself has broken batting against who knows how many roided-up pitchers. And a record that, perhaps only a few years from now, will be broken by someone (A-Rod, Pujols, Howard) who is playing at a time when baseball does not test for human growth hormone.

This context is conveniently ignored by those who have made Bonds Public Enemy No. 1. So is the culpability of Major League Baseball, the owners, the players association, the media and the fans.

The fans especially have been getting a free pass through all this. We bought the McGwire-Sosa race hook, line and sinker and we’ve been going through the turnstiles in record numbers ever since. We tacitly approve the juiced-up brand of baseball by opening our wallets, then boo and taunt guys like Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield for cheating.

Why hold ourselves or anyone else accountable when we can just dump it all in Bonds’ lap. He’s not a nice guy. He’s aloof from fans and surly towards the media. He ignores little kids who want his autograph. He now holds one of our most sacred records. The man’s got it coming.

But then, as Will Munny would also say, we’ve all got it coming.


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