Bonds opens up

why not listen?

April 09, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

There's no way I'm missing Bonds on Bonds from now on. Lost, 24, The Office, Flavor of Love, they all have new company on my must-see list.

Crazy, isn't it? No, this is crazy: I'm going to keep watching even though there's no chance that he's going to be asked the question America believes the reality show's producers are obligated to ask: "Are you or are you not the most craven, cheatin', lyin', 'roided-up, sportswriter-sassin', uppity lowlife in the history of our sacred national pastime?"

Or some version of that.

It may be some indication of the path we've all taken with Bonds, but it seems a little strange that so many people have spent the past two decades whining at the top of their lungs about how Barry never shares any aspect of his life with them - yet when he finally does, no one wants to hear it.

Unless, that is, he is willing to answer The Question. Unfortunately, it's at the heart of everything happening in baseball right now, especially the commissioner's face-saving scapegoat search - oops, his steroid investigation committee.

The Question isn't one to ignore. But to use it as the sole measuring stick of the value of Bonds on Bonds is easily as crazy as everything else about this scandal. Personally, I'm fascinated by the peek into the life of the most reviled man in America.

Bonds is billing America for this peek, and the people who stalked him through locker rooms and around batting cages and into dugouts and hallways from coast to coast have to pay up, too, after not being able to pry it out of him for free.

It's not fun to have it fed to us this way - but in light of everything going on, it's time to stop being picky. If this is the window we have, who is crazy or bitter or envious enough to not look?

Not me.

The producers have never pretended that this was going to be 60 Minutes. Bonds is not going to answer the most relevant of the five journalistic W's in this forum - What. Probably not When, either. Certainly not as it pertains to The Question.

He might, however, tell us Why, or Who, or the one H, How. That last one is going to keep this on my viewing schedule. How did Barry Bonds become what he is today, whatever that is - steroid abuser, outrageous talent, willfully obstinate interview subject, insecure kid now grown up, self-absorbed egotist green with envy, to name a few?

Problem is, to want to truly understand what makes him tick is to acknowledge his humanity, his complexity, his multiple dimensions.

It's a lot easier to assign one dimension to him: evil. And one personality: villain.

Villains don't have daughters who pluck away at the piano. Villains don't own fish tanks with pipes that burst. Villains don't have fathers with prickly, convoluted, love-hate relationships with their prodigy sons.

At least a few people with big voices and platforms from which to shout, seem angry about the show. You had to put a towel underneath your radio or TV to soak up all the bile spewing forth the day afterward. The scene in Bonds on Bonds that appeared to offend the most, was his sitting next to his father Bobby's grave, pulling tufts of grass away from around the stone.

Phony, the cynics yelled. Or, a maudlin ploy, or a total contrivance.

Congratulations to those skeptics, all of whom apparently have not lost a parent yet. May you never have to worry about empathizing, much less sympathizing, with that scene.

Oddly enough, many of the next-day critics never uttered a word about the most riveting scene of all: the hate mail, much of it racial. I don't even want to speculate on why not. This much is true, though: To be the personification of all that's wrong with our society, one can't be perceived as being on the right side of anything.

To see a different side or two of Bonds was fairly enlightening, and I knew most of those stories; the average viewer probably didn't. Not that Bonds has anyone to blame but himself. We've all wanted to see these other sides of him, demanded it, and he's fought it, for better or worse.

If he now has regrets for soiling his own image, giving his critics so much ammunition and torching any possibility of goodwill to carry him through the bad times - well, at least it means we get a belated, limited look at his world now. (Also a jumpy, confusing, strangely edited one that was too jumbled to grasp without a second viewing; here's hoping that gets smoothed out.)

It might make us rethink Bonds; it might not, and it might reinforce what we already thought. One thing Bonds on Bonds is not, though, is useless.

Unless you've decided that you know everything that needs to be known about the evil man. If so, feel free to just keep talking to yourself about Barry Bonds. No one will argue back. david.steele@baltsun.com

Read David Steele's blog at baltimoresun.com/steeleblog

Points after -- David Steele

Got back from the men's Final Four, relaxed for a day or two, then took note of the week's scoreboard: Baltimore wins, 16-6 and 9-6. First thought: It's Ravens season already?

This is the kind of fan base Maryland now has: Gary Williams hasn't won a national championship in four years, and an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in two, so he's got to go. Brenda Frese was celebrating getting two rings (wedding and championship) in the past year? She'd better also worry about the two honeymoons.

Speaking of which, Ralph Friedgen (two straight 5-6 seasons) might want to keep his head down, too.

Ken Griffey has been justifiably praised for passing Mickey Mantle on the home run list. But when the asterisks get sprinkled over the past decade of baseball history, don't they automatically get sprinkled over Griffey's numbers, too? Or did he play in a parallel universe separate from McGwire, Bonds and Palmeiro?

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