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We also see Bonds as McGwire and Sammy Sosa, both less talented but better-loved, captivate the nation while chasing Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs. Bonds bulks up, and so do his home run numbers, and soon he has surpassed not just McGwire’s new single-season mark but Hank Aaron’s career total of 755 as well.

That’s the advantage Burns and Novick have in dealing with the more modern era: The viewer already knows, without being told, why Bonds reported to the Giants 20 pounds heavier one spring. Or what was meant when a trainer agreed to do whatever Clemens asked. (Viewers will also chuckle at the reference to disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, lashing out at Cubs fan Steve Bartman for interfering with a foul ball).

When they show photographs of McGwire and Jose Canseco together, it’s understood that they will both eventually leave the sport in shame, destined to be the stars of former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell’s investigation into steroid abuse in baseball.

“Having dealt with more than 150 years of baseball history, we tried to put it in a little bit of perspective,” Burns said. “In my mind, this is not the worst baseball scandal ever.”

For Burns, that would be the exclusion of black ballplayers in the first half of the century, before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier _ a major theme of the original documentary. (It also chronicled widespread gambling and cheating in the sport’s early days, culminating in the throwing of the 1919 World Series by the Chicago White Sox _ also worse than steroids, in Burns‘ opinion).

Robinson’s arrival opened the door for more blacks, and for players from Latin America and Asia. It also forced the nation to be more open to minorities in other areas.

It’s not clear that steroids will have the same positive effect, but Burns is hopeful.

“Jackie Robinson showed baseball to be the meritocracy that American wants to be,” Burns said. “Baseball has always been a change agent.”