- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2005

Barry Bonds has descended into being mere material now.

He is not a serious person. He is just funny. He is funny in that Dan Rather-like way. What’s the frequency, Barry? He just says what he says, with a straight face, and then you start chuckling to yourself. He, too, chuckles. He says crazy stuff, irrelevant stuff, none of it intended to persuade, just obfuscate the obvious.

Bonds is no comic in the Chris Rock sense. He aspires to be an angry black man, if not the angriest black man on the face of the earth, and he broached the tired subject.

He played the race card anew this week, as only a put-upon person approaching the overweight ghost of Babe Ruth could. The scrutiny that has come his way since the BALCO scandal has risen in proportion to his arrival at the intersection of Ruth and Race, as he sees it.

“Because Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and Babe Ruth ain’t black either,” he said this week. “I’m black. Blacks, we go through a little more. I’m not a racist, though, but I live in the real world. I’m fine with that.”

There is nowhere to really go with all that because Bonds does not live in the real world, and never has lived there, unless you count living in baseball clubhouses since being a wee lad as the real world. He is part of that racially transcendent group of Americans, the rich and famous, impervious to the rules of masses.

It is tough out there, no doubt, and various commentators have tried to concede the point of his blackness to him, if only to demonstrate their racial enlightenment, which is a scream, as we all know. Tough is a relative term because the best thing that can happen to any human on the planet is to be born in the United States.

All of Bonds’ millions apparently fail to soften the hard parts of his life, although there would be a long line of folks ready to exchange their lives for all his burdens and millions. But that is his story, the only one left, and he has no choice but to stick to it.

Fortunately, Ken Burns, the one-note filmmaker, can amplify this contention on celluloid in a few years.

It is just a little tougher being Bonds, it seems, because he is set to pass Ruth on the all-time home run list, as if this is a water-cooler topic. To be honest, Ruth is so last century, left to be an almost mythical cartoon character now, and overstating his place on the baseball home run list is hardly fair to Hank Aaron, who is No. 1 and, conveniently enough, black himself.

Bonds probably would be surprised to learn the staggering number of Americans indifferent to him, Ruth, Aaron, the cream, the clear, the home run chase and baseball in general. This is noted only in cause with his real world, which includes the parables of “Sanford and Son” and the lying members of the baseball press, who, if the truth were known, so desperately want to be loved by Bonds.

He is going to pass both Ruth and Aaron, regardless of being fair and square, which really was the essence of his out-of-body press conference. There can be no joy with Bonds, and we all can understand that.

Who could enjoy the grand jury testimony, the leaks in the press, the legal troubles of the personal trainer and long-time buddy, the suspicions, the massive body that developed so late in his career and the final defense of being ignorant to the cream and clear?

Perhaps Bonds thought the cream and clear were moisturizers to help dry skin.

Bonds is one for a panel of ethicists, which is out of the tiny sphere of the seam heads who prefer to find vast meaning in all the numbers.

Bonds sees it just one way, his way, not realizing the difficulty it places on those chronicling his home run march. They must sift through the steroid landfill in order to find context.

Let’s not forget, the BALCO scandal is actually an equal-opportunity stigma, and we have the word of Dr. Jose Canseco and the peculiar apologies of the incredibly shrinking Jason Giambi on that.

Bonds raises the contextual bar because of his assault on Aaron, and so the ethicalness of it all never goes away.

It is really that simple. His is a tainted home run pursuit. Celebrate it. Or not.

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