- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Are you not entertained?

Are you not entertained?

Is this not why you are here?

— Maximus in “Gladiator”

During his weekend in Philadelphia, Barry Bonds received a less than warm reception.

When he took his position in left field, fans unveiled a sign that read: “Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer.” Others held signs with an asterisk or a syringe on them. They chanted “Just retire” and “Just inject me.”

But when Bonds hit home run No. 713 in the sixth inning Sunday night — a 2-1 pitch from Jon Lieber — some fans cheered.

The most hated man in baseball was cheered, not unanimously, but cheered nonetheless by the same fans who booed Santa Claus.

That’s because Barry Bonds always gives the people what they want: someone to cheer, someone to boo, someone to throw a syringe at. Love him or hate him, this is appointment television.

Kobe Bryant and Terrell Owens — both with Philly connections — are not in Bonds’ class.

In the gladiator culture of sports, Bonds defiantly walks into the coliseum and performs, unless it’s a day game following a night game. He walks. He strikes out. He homers. Whatever the result, the masses have quenched their blood thirst.

Bonds has his fans, mostly in San Francisco. He has his detractors, mostly everywhere else. But give the devil his due: Bonds doesn’t inspire a lot of fence-sitting.

He is Reggie Jackson — on steroids. Supposedly.

Bonds is a symbol of America’s pastime and America’s excess and where the two have intersected. 61 home runs — not enough. 70 home runs — not enough. Super size me: 73 home runs.

He is Superman and Lex Luthor. He is a summer blockbuster all by himself. And he is just 42 home runs shy of Hank Aaron’s record.

Many baseball fans profess they are torn in the midst of Bonds’ record quest.

But baseball fans in 1961 did not want Roger Maris to break Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season. They pulled against him because he was not a real Yankee, not like Ruth or Mickey Mantle. Maris came from the Kansas City Athletics.

Maris broke the record while pulling out clumps of his hair.

He had head issues — although different than the ones possessed by Bonds.

Some say Bonds has a big head because he has a really big ego, and some say Bonds has a big head because he has a really big head.

True story: Last week in Milwaukee, Bonds was hit by a batted ball during batting practice — in the head. You can’t make this stuff up.

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