A pack of sportswriters used to stand about 15 feet from Barry Bonds’ easy chair in the San Francisco Giants locker room, waiting for the nod.
That was the one that told everyone it was OK to approach the king, who always held court on his terms. He could be charming at times, or he could rip a writer’s head off with a verbal outburst.
Growing up as I did, in a farming community where modesty was preferred to bluster, it was especially annoying to see a man who obviously had everything — wealth, fame, talent, adulation — act like such a jerk.
So please understand that I am not a Barry Bonds fan who wants to wear his jersey the day he gets elected to Cooperstown.
That being said, if Bonds doesn’t end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame, I am never going there again. Period.
Same goes for Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, and for gosh sakes, even Rafael Palmeiro.
As a baseball fan, I go to the Hall of Fame to see stories about the greatest players in the game. I am not going to some club to see busts of some truly nice guys.
I know. Cheaters. Steroid users. Despicable.
I idolized Mickey Mantle as a kid growing up in New York. Later I found out that he was an alcoholic and a womanizer.
But gosh, could he hit a baseball. Mantle is in the Hall of Fame.
OK, so he didn’t cheat.
What about George Brett? Remember the pine tar incident?
That’s so minor you say?
What about a spit ball? Stealing signs? Corked bats?
Anyone in the Hall of Fame who did any of that stuff?
It’s not that I condone any of that behavior. It’s just that baseball has created its own mess from the owners down to the bottom level.
Sports, in general, has created a steroids community from the Tour de France to Major League Baseball to swimming.
Our athletes have tried to find ways to get bigger, faster, stronger because as a society we push them to do so.
We, as a society, eventually found that steroids could rip bodies apart with negative side-effects. We put the kibosh on taking them to build muscle.
And yet, can you think of a sport that requires athletes to gain huge amounts of weight, through legal weightlifting and eating habits, that ultimately might be unhealthy for that person’s frame or organs?
Oh yeah, that one.
I knew an NFL offensive lineman who one season was asked to gain 40 pounds of fat so he could be bottom heavy. He was traded the next season and the coaching staff valued quickness, so he had to lose the fat. Then the next season, after the previous year’s coach was fired, it was back to binge-eating to gain weight. Sounds healthy to me.
Those who run our sports can create such landscapes. The athletes do what they can to survive in them.
I am not asking the Hall of Fame to give Bonds, Clemens and others a free pass. They have suffered through public humiliation, trials and various forms of punishment. Can’t we please just say “enough,” and move forward?
Let’s teach our kids about the “steroids era” in baseball and keep a sharp eye on steroids use at all levels
As far as those who took steroids, I am not asking us to forget, just forgive. I do understand those who run the Baseball Hall of Fame make their own decisions, but if they decide to ban several of the best players ever, then they have lost me as a customer.
Did they lose you?
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.