Bonds' long shadow leaves a fan vexed

August 14, 2007|By Matthew Hay Brown

When we were kids, our parents would take us for a couple of weeks each summer to Harvey, a quiet village on a lake in the mostly rural Canadian province of New Brunswick. On afternoons when it rained in Harvey, my brother and I would hunt down a deck of cards for a game that we called "Canadian fish."

Canadian fish played the same as go fish, with an important twist: We cheated. You were supposed to cheat. We palmed cards off the draw pile, and hid them up sleeves and down socks. We asked for cards we didn't hold; we denied holding those that we did. The more extravagant the violation, the better.

Here was the thing, though, about Canadian fish: It might have been funny - if I mentioned it to Andrew now, I'm sure he would still smile - but it wasn't fun. Once we had abandoned the rules, it was no longer a game. And after a few minutes goofing around with the cards, we would be looking for some more reliable pastime with which to entertain ourselves.

Barry Bonds has hit his 756th home run. I am aware of no serious person, among those paying attention, who believes he came by all of them honestly. His most energetic supporters argue that he isn't the only one who has used performance-enhancing drugs. Their everybody-else-is-doing-it defense has never swayed a competent judge or responsible parent. But they appear to be correct.

We are weathering a rough summer for integrity in sport. Years of doping in cycling culminated in last month's scandal-destroyed Tour de France. The people who love that sport now question whether its premier event should even be held next year.

A National Basketball Association referee is accused of betting on games in which he officiated. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to determine whether he succeeded in manipulating the point spread with his calls.

And now Mr. Bonds has ruined baseball's most cherished record.

I leave it to others to rhapsodize about the deeper meaning of sport. For me, they are only games. But that has been enough: Following my teams through the wins and the losses, the streaks and the slumps, has proved a lifelong source of entertainment, drama and pleasure.

Being from New England, I grew up with the Boston Red Sox. (Stay with me, O's fans.) I was listening on the transistor radio I carried with me on my paper route that blustery October afternoon in 1978 when Bucky Dent's pop fly floated over the Green Monster in the playoff game with the Yankees. I was watching with college friends in our dorm eight years later when Bill Buckner pulled up too quickly from Mookie Wilson's ground ball in the 1986 World Series against the Mets.

And I celebrated with my wife in 2004 when closer Keith Foulke snapped up Edgar Renter?a's grounder and flipped it to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to seal Boston's first title in 86 years.

It turns out to be true: The disappointments really did make the championship sweeter. I do not begrudge Yankee fans their team's many successes, but I can't imagine that any of them felt that same mixture of elation and relief when New York followed its 25th World Series title in 1999 by winning its 26th in 2000.

But if 2004 means that I need no longer worry that I will not live to see my Sox win a World Series, I have a new concern: that one of the heroes of that magical run will be revealed to have been using steroids.

Because if it turns out that the Red Sox cheated their way to that championship, then baseball, for me, will be Canadian fish. And I will have to look for some more reliable pastime with which to entertain myself.

Matthew Hay Brown is a Sun staff writer. His e-mail is matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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