Will reality show on Bonds paint him as American idol?

The Kickoff

February 27, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.-- --This is what we -- the collective media -- have been reduced to during the first week of Barrymania 2006.

In the absence of any real Barry Bonds news, an ESPN camera crew was busy filming Bad News Barry's personal photographer, who was busy taking dozens of pictures of Bonds sitting on the bench in the Scottsdale Stadium home dugout doing absolutely nothing.

I don't know if life was imitating art or art was intimating that some of us have no life, but just to make sure there's no misunderstanding -- and to preserve the remaining shreds of my journalistic integrity -- I'm going to disclose right now that there was no one named Art anywhere around.

Don't you love it when I go all stream of consciousness?

Tony Phills, who was documenting Barry's every movement with a still camera -- and I mean every movement -- didn't seem to notice that somebody was documenting his every movement, too. I sidled up and asked him if he was the guy producing the reality show about Bonds that has stirred up the second great Barry controversy (the first was his on-again, off-again retirement announcement) at the San Francisco Giants' spring training camp.

"It's a documentary," Phills sniffed. "There's a difference."

The Barry Camp bristles at the description of its budding project as a "reality show," as if anybody might think that Bonds is going to make his teammates eat a bucket of worms or perform some other disgusting stunt to gain his approval. Pitching to Barry in an intrasquad game, even now that he's 41 and missed almost all of last season, should create enough of a fear factor for anyone.

I suppose we could have stood around arguing semantics all day, but Phills had to keep moving just in case Barry yawned or something, so I sought out one of Bonds' publicists, Lisa Nitta, to get more information about the project.

Nitta told me that nothing has been finalized, but no one is denying that an independent production company is in negotiations with ESPN to produce a docu-series chronicling Bonds' quest to pass Babe Ruth and eclipse Hank Aaron as baseball's all-time home run king.

It is expected to be one of those all-access things where the cameras get into places that cameras don't usually get to go. The only question is whether it will be a truly unvarnished view of one of the most enigmatic athletes in professional sports, or just an opportunity for Team Bonds to polish his image with a carefully edited video account of his season-long (or longer) record chase.

I'm guessing Barry will have script approval. He might even be the de facto executive producer. He certainly gave that impression a few days ago when he told several television and print reporters that he no longer would allow them to interview him unless they signed releases allowing his video crew to film them for the show.

There are differing opinions on whether he was really serious, but he reportedly did hand out copies of the release from a company called Killer Bee Productions. "Bee" is what some friends and teammates call Bonds, so you can take it from there.

If you're keeping score at home, yesterday was a happy Barry day. He seemed to be enjoying spring camp, though it was only a few days since he told a reporter he was going to retire because the game is not fun anymore. Of course, he later told MLB.com that he might not retire, depending on how this season goes, which sort of rendered the whole thing moot.

I guess he's saving that decision for the final episode of Barry Unplugged or whatever they're going to call it.

In what is truly a strange juxtaposition with all this reality-based speculation, the Giants have loosened up training camp with their own version of American Idol. Every player who is in big league camp for the first time must perform a song in front of his teammates on the roof of the Giants dugout before the club's scheduled workouts today and tomorrow.

Bonds and fellow veterans Jeff Fassero and Ray Durham will serve as judges for the competition, which will determine who is this year's "Giants Idol."

"Barry is having fun," said manager Felipe Alou. "He has loosened up for whatever reason."

Indeed, Bonds looked very relaxed yesterday as he took three rounds of batting practice and hit several long shots over the right field fence. He chirped at batting practice pitcher Luis Pujols and joked around with his teammates like he was just one of the guys.

He's not, of course, but if he comes off that way onscreen, at least we'll have proof it's not a reality show.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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