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Friday, June 18, 2004

Barry Bonds Must Want Us to Hate Him

Sean already posted on the surreal Boston Globe article in which Barry Bonds bandies about reckless charges of racism against the city of Boston and sports fans in general. Here are a few excerpts of what Bonds had to say:

"Boston is too racist for me," he said. "I couldn't play there."

It is a judgment, he acknowledges, not derived of firsthand experience -- he missed the 1999 All-Star Game, played in Boston, because of an injury -- but on word-of-mouth.

"Only what guys have said," he said, "but that's been going on ever since my dad [Bobby] was playing baseball. I can't play like that. That's not for me, brother."

When it was suggested the racial climate has changed in Boston, Bonds demurred.

"It ain't changing," he said. "It ain't changing nowhere."

They built a tunnel to honor Ted Williams in Boston. What did he imagine would be built for him?

"Nothing, man," he said. "I'm black. They don't build stuff for blacks." ...

To remind him, when he says that he will not be honored like [Ted] Williams was, that outside of SBC Park, there is a statue of his godfather, is only to invite a derisive counterpoint.

"Muhammad Ali doesn't, though, and he's the greatest boxer of all time," Bonds said.

(Ground has been broken in Louisville for a Muhammad Ali Center, scheduled to open in 2005.)

"But who's the guy in Philadelphia? Is that Sylvester Stallone? Sly Stallone? Rocky?"

There is a statue of "Rocky," the cinematic boxer played by Stallone, at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"But Muhammad Ali don't? Ha."

He similarly dismisses the argument that the once-controversial Ali has morphed into one of the world's most beloved athletes.

"We can count those on our hand," Bonds said. "You guys [whites] can't count those on your hand.

"I live in the real world, brother. That's all. I do the best I can in the real world. I ain't mad at it, but it's still the real world." ...

Ted Williams famously is said to have expressed the desire that when people saw him walk down the street, he wanted them to say, "There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived."

Did Bonds ever entertain a similar desire?

"All I want you to do when you write your story," he said in response, "is list all the white athletes that they say things about, and then list the black athletes that are talked about in a positive way."

Bobby Bonds played in the American League from 1975-1979 for the Yankees, Angels, White Sox, Rangers and Indians. That means Bonds is basing his impression of the city of Boston from what his father told him about the place from his infrequent visits as an opposing player for a few years ending a quarter of a century ago.

The preoccupation with who has a statue or not also seems odd, considering how Bonds says in the article, "I ain't never played baseball for fame. I just play to play." But I guess he would like a statue, or at least a statue for other famous black athletes. One that comes to mind is Michael Jordan, who has a statue outside the United Center in Chicago, but who does and doesn't have a statue seems an odd standard to use for the amount of public respect given to a sports figure.

Willie Mays, for instance, is widely and deeply respected from all the media I've seen reminisce about him over the years (I'm too young to have seen him play). In the article, Bonds claims to be outraged at Mays' not being included in MasterCard's "priceless moments" event at the 2002 World Series. Fans voted Cal Ripken breaking the consecutive games streak as the greatest moment in baseball history, and that probably won because it happened fairly recently and so was more at the forefront of the public mind, but it's worth noting that the second and third vote-getters were Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson, black stars who broke the all-time home-run record and color barrier, respectively. A Mays moment--his famed over-the-shoulder catch from the '54 World Series--was among the 25 moments up for voting, but it didn't crack the top ten. "How can you not have one of the best baseball players to walk on the planet not there?" Bonds asks. The answer is that the event was honoring moments, not great players. I guess Bonds needed another way to claim that Mays was being disrespected, since Mays actually does have a statue. (If Barry had been at the '99 All-Star Game in Boston, he might have noticed Mays being honored as an all-time baseball great in an on-field ceremony--but I'm sure Bonds would've complained about Ted Williams being the focus that night.)

Now that I've dismantled Bonds' nonsense (kudos to Edes for the Ali bit), the question emerges: why does Barry Bonds say such inflammatory and unsupportable things? For this, I'll repeat what I wrote in a comment on Sean's site:

Bonds seems intent on proving his own victimhood. I think he intentionally tries to piss people off with remarks like these, and then when fans decide to dislike him for it, he can claim he's persecuted. The whole article is pretty unbelievable, with Bonds claiming black athletes never get the love from the fans that white athletes do. I wonder how he explains cases like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods? He wants to pretend people don't like him because he's black, when the truth is people don't like him because he's just a bastard.

I'll add that I used to like Barry Bonds and thought the media were unfair to him. He's making it harder for even his few stubborn fans to keep rooting for him, though, with episodes like this as well as his recent idiotic remarks on Roger Clemens. Insisting you live in the "real world" when you're in the midst of a contract that pays $72 million over four years is also a bit much.

On an unrelated note, Bonds would probably also approvingly link to Steve Bailey in today's Globe, describing the strong-arm tactics used by Peter Pan against the upstart Chinatown shuttle. If not a sign of racism, this does at least show the lengths to which monopolists will try to crush those who encroach on their turf.