Friday, April 07, 2006

Let's Just Barry The Issue and Move On

At my request, KK sent me William Rhoden's piece in today's NY Times, in which Barry Bonds is compared to Jack Johnson. I had read the teaser on the front page, and wondered if the article could possibly be as boneheaded as the teaser made it sound. After all, I used to love Rhoden's work, and I miss reading him, now that he's sequestered behind the TimesSelect wall.

Johnson, if you didn't already know, was the first black man to be the heavyweight boxing champ. Since he had the misfortune to achieve this milestone in 1908, in America, he suffered greatly. He was hounded by the United States government, who created a law (the Mann Act) pretty much just to get him -- Johnson had a white girlfriend at the time. Depending on whom you believe, he may have been forced into throwing the fight that cost him his crown, to a white man.

If you have access to TimesSelect [no longer applicable], here's the link to Rhoden's piece.

Here's my response to Rhoden's piece, part of my reply to KK:

Rhoden writes well enough that the piece wasn't as boneheaded as I had feared from the teaser, but still.

Barry Bonds is not in Jack Johnson's league, from what little I know about the two men. I'll go along, a smidgen, with the suspicion that Bonds is being persecuted, by some in the chattering classes, for being simultaneously black, loud, and ornery.

However, there have been no new laws crafted specifically to hound him. His race and choice of sleeping partners are not the issues, from the government's perspective. Congress did not place him, alone, in front of the cameras. In fact, if memory serves, Bonds wasn't even present at that ludicrous photo op. At most, baseball has been dragged, kicking and screaming, into enforcing rules that seem eminently reasonable, and there is not anything on the horizon to suggest that these rules will be retroactively enforced.

Granted, Bonds has gotten the lion's share of the long-term spotlight, now that Rafael Palmiero is effectively banished, and Mark McGwire has been relegated to the status of "Who? Oh, yeah, that guy with Sammy Sosa . . ."

But what does he expect? He's chasing a hallowed record in a country that pays its top gossip topics top dollar. Welcome to the big leagues, Barry.

A classy man in his situation might have retired by now. A slightly less classy man might just shrug and say, "I played by the rules as they were," and then quietly continue to play ball. Instead, Bonds launches his own "reality" show and continues to play the victim.

Ban him from the Hall of Fame? Append asterisks to his stats? Naw, not me. But, other than that, I've got no sympathy for the guy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this one. Did you see the piece -- where was it? -- about the entourage Bond travels with? His teammates must be so sick of him. It's supposed to be a team sport.