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BEST SPORTS EMBARRASSMENT Phoenix 2007 - Barry Bonds

We saw a story the other day that said Barry Bonds memorabilia was sitting on the shelves unsold in the midst of the season he broke Henry Aaron' s career home run record. Sad commentary on the former Arizona State University prodigy turned slugger for the San Francisco Giants. In a national pastime that's had its share of jerks, Bonds even surpasses assholic Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks as the biggest among active players. In a year when he broke Aaron's season total of 755 round-trippers, he couldn't have been hated more by his teammates. Not so much for the steroid scandal in which he's enmeshed but because of his arrogance.

Unlike other Giants players, Bonds had personal trainers in the clubhouse and even had his own easy chair there. He could be openly derisive to fellow players. Even imperious. He played when he wanted and took himself out of games when he wanted. Even his manager wasn't allowed to question Bonds. But this was nothing new; he sneered at fans and at the press through much of his career. He's never even entertained the notion that he chose to become a celebrity and, therefore, owes his riches to his public.

Though steroid use in the majors has been played up by the sports press as a major scandal, we couldn't care less. Sports is entertainment, and if performance-enhancing drugs help players be more entertaining, then so be it. Comic George Carlin once half-joked that athletes should be required to take steroids, to (ahem...) level the playing field. Carlin hit on the problem with performance-enhancing drugs. How can the playing field be anywhere close to even when some players use and others don't? Is Bonds' record as valid as Aaron's because Barry beefed up from the skinny young man he was at ASU to the hulking best power hitter of all time? We were a kid in Atlanta when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record, and Hammerin' Hank couldn't have been more revered for his achievement. He was loved and respected by teammates and fans — even though the Jim Crow South wasn't that far in the past.

Too bad Barry Bonds' achievement was greeted with little more than a yawn this year because of Bonds' shrugging his steroid-enhanced shoulders at Hank's legacy of sportsmanship, as well as at us fans.

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