Cheer for Me, Don’t Cheer for Me

Barry Bonds Failed to Grow into Anticipated Role

With an ominous cloud of steroid use and vicious allegations looming over spring training, Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig and fans are searching for a reason to get excited. The grass is newly cut, the tarps have been rolled back and both the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League are a week into spring sessions. The first week of a very long year, though, has its usual spring thunderstorms in both Florida and Arizona.

In a year when Babe Ruth’s second all-time mark of 714 home runs should be surpassed, we should not need something to get excited about. Ruth himself should be eager.

But people are not excited. Rather, they are suspicious. The media is suspicious of baseball. The fans are suspicious of the game’s legends. Everyone is suspicious of Barry Bonds

Bonds’ press conference late last week was drama at its height. The site was of a man defending himself in a year that is supposed to be his. He is a man who has had to repeatedly deny steroid-use allegations. He has had to repeatedly defend his training regimen and he has repeatedly come under the most intense scrutiny offered in modern sports. With 11 home runs before he closes in on the Big Bambino, Bonds can bet on a bashing.

We cheered for Mark McGwire and we cheered for Sammy Sosa. We cheered for them during their historic 1998 tear at Roger Maris’ longstanding single-season home run record of 61. We cheered because they were ambassadors of the game. We cheered when Sosa ran out to right field at Wrigley Field with the American flag in his hand. Few knew he was newly nationalized. We cheered for Mark McGwire when he lifted his son Matthew high above his head when he broke Maris’ record and hit number 62 on the season. We cheered when they both came together and epitomized all that is good about the game.

We want to cheer for Bonds, but he won’t allow us.

Bonds has chastised the media and shunned the attention. He hasn’t grown into the role like we hoped he would. His broad shoulders, fierce forearms, and filled-out number 25 jersey struggles to fit the gargantuan mantle: a mantle held by Ruth and Aaron.

There are no sound bites of Bonds celebrating the American spirit. None like the Babe chewing on his cigar saying “I know, but I had a better year than Hoover,” referring to his salary of $80,000, which was more than President Herbert Hoover at the time. There will be none like hank Aaron’s, “It took me seventeen years to get 3,000 hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course,” when referring to his inability with the club.

No, Bonds is bitter with scrutiny. “You guys are like reruns – asking the same questions over and over,” he barked at reporters at his press conference. “Those that are going to cheer for me will cheer for me, and those that will boo, will boo.”

In a year that was supposed to be his, it doesn’t seem like too many people are on his side.