Taunts aimed at Bonds taint others even more

April 24, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

It was a momentous weekend in Denver for Barry Bonds. He hit his first home run of the season. And he encountered his first road crowd that wasn't obnoxious or obscene enough to merit national attention.

Congratulations, Denver. Your fan-to-jackass ratio appears to be lower than that of San Diego, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Not to say that the paying customers at the Rockies-Giants series this weekend were scrupulously following the guidelines set for fans and/or decent society. There was the usual booing, chanting, sign-waving, T-shirt-donning and foul gesturing - typical crudity and incivility, the kind we make fun of European soccer fans for displaying.

It's just that at Coors Field, no one threw objects at Bonds near the dugout or near his position in the field, as Padres and Diamondbacks fans had. And nobody unleashed streams of profanity loud enough or close enough to a network microphone for it to be transmitted across the country, as Dodgers fans had.

It apparently has been accepted by all involved that fan abuse is going to be just another sidelight of Bonds' season and of his climb up the career home run chart. And it's obvious that there's as much chance of anyone with any clout taking a real stand against the idiocy as there is that anyone will stop calling Bonds' pursuit "the chase of Ruth."

(A brief digression: Edgerrin James is not chasing Walter Payton on the all-time NFL rushing list; he's chasing Emmitt Smith. Someday, Kobe Bryant won't be chasing Karl Malone on the NBA scoring list; he'll be chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Babe Ruth doesn't hold anybody's major league career home run record, unless it's the record for guys whose last name begins with "R." How about getting over that sometime soon, whether Bonds passes him or not? It's not so much a slap in the face to Hank Aaron as it is a knee in the groin. End of digression.)

Now, if one believes that actions speak louder than words, one would think that the baseball world is not condoning the anti-Bonds activity at the ballparks he visits. Security from Major League Baseball, the Giants and the host team has been beefed up. According to Denver newspaper reports, four uniformed, off-duty city cops patrolled the left-field stands over the weekend.

At Dodger Stadium the weekend before, security guards shook down fans for contraband, to make sure no turkey basters (as in San Diego) or tubes of cream (that was Arizona) were available to be hurled in Bonds' direction. A fan tried to sneak a giant syringe into the pavilion, reported the Los Angeles Times, and when it was taken from him, his excuse was, "But I'm a ... diabetic."

Yuk, yuk, yuk. The same fan told the Times, "We've driven four hours to boo a cheater ... and that's what we will do."

Who wants to be the one to tell the "fan" that he's saying more about himself than he is about Bonds?

It would be convenient for many if Bonds, his diminished power and the knee that's giving him the Fred Sanford walk just disappeared - like Rafael Palmeiro last year, when he shriveled in the post-suspension heat (relatively mild as it was) and finally packed his earplugs and went home. It would be for the good of the game, we've been told.

In that light, the merciless taunting - which is also climbing the all-time lists, closing in on Roger Maris and threatening Jackie Robinson - seems to be getting passed off as being good for the game as well. In other words, Bonds is getting what he deserves, so there's no reason to condemn it in any way.

The commissioner, while helping secure Bonds' physical safety and playing it down the middle on the home run chase, nevertheless has had nothing to say about the rotten treatment Bonds is getting and has done nothing to implore fans to calm the hell down and stop making fools of themselves.

Nor have any of the prominent voices chronicling baseball. Lots of newsprint and air time devoted to detailing the fan stupidity, but no one jumping in - as they would if, say, fans at a football or basketball game threw objects onto the field of play - to say, "This is inexcusable, no matter what you think of that person." Nothing more, in fact, than some jokes and even attempts to downplay it or, worse, justify it.

Thus, if the war to put Bonds in his place escalates, those who have appeased the knuckleheads will have to accept their share of blame. When someone hurls a real syringe or a copy of Game of Shadows or a bottle of pills, or runs onto the field himself, it will be too late to show any outrage.

In baseball's sad history of ugly reactions to milestone achievements, this is showing early signs of being the ugliest. And we'll get to tell our grandkids we were there for it.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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

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