Sometimes my job is just too easy. Thank you Barry Bonds. Thank you for putting on a dress, wig, vogue sunglasses and all other necessary “equipment” to impersonate Paula Abdul. Thank you Mark Sweeney for convincing Bonds along with the rest of the San Francisco Giants that it would be a good idea to have a mock “American Idol” contest during spring training. Thank you on behalf of sports fans everywhere.
My personal favorite part of the seven-time MVP’s outfit was the ridiculously long necklace draped over his chest. The “bling” bore a striking resemblance to an old set of snow chains in the back of my truck.
If possible, I would simply use the space this column occupies to project Bonds in action. But alas, newspapers have not yet evolved to the stage where videos can play on their pages; Bonds’ actions have made me question all my assumptions on reality.
Now, if I were a lesser columnist, I would somehow insinuate that Bonds’ dress-up date was a side effect of the testosterone levels resulting from a certain banned substance no longer prevalent in his body.
But clearly there is more to Bonds’ actions than a hormone imbalance. I haven’t been this flabbergasted by video footage since the documentary “Grizzly Man.” For those of you who haven’t seen “Grizzly Man,” it is a tour de force (no, I’m not French) in what can happen to those who drop out of college with drinking problems. In short, if you party too hard in college, you’re going to be mauled and eaten by a bear. Consider yourself warned.
We have a tendency to polarize all professional athletes, including Bonds. When a new athlete bursts onto the scene, people have questions they want instantly analyzed and answered: How good is this person? Are they just a tease? Or are we looking at someone with truly special talent?
They will want to know who this athlete is, what makes him tick and if this person would make a good role model. The truth is people are complex, but that doesn’t fit neatly into a headline. Inevitably, we categorize them as a hero or a villain.
As for Bonds, there is no doubt that he is a special talent. Seven MVP’s, 708 career home runs, and .442 career on base percentage speak for themselves.
But Barry Bonds has been criticized and demonized by the media. You think you have him figured out – he’s the guy who sits in his own personal corner locker reclined in his leather chair, headphones on, completely disconnected from the rest of the Giants.
The guy who tells USA Today he’s going to retire at the end of the year, and then turns around and says he might not. The one who vehemently denied using steroids, then refused to comment on leaked grand jury testimony that he unknowingly took steroids.
The jerk who puts himself above the team, who gets into altercations with teammates (did someone say Jeff Kent?).
He whines to the media about their oppressive influence on his life. He complains to the same media that publicizes and praises his accomplishments and allows for his athletic talent to earn him $18 million this year.
Then he goes and dresses up in drag and shakes our whole perception of him.
Let’s step back and look at someone else on the opposite end of the spectrum: Brett Favre. He is one of the prominent faces of the NFL; even casual football fans recognize him. When he throws an interception that was obviously (and “not-so-brightly”) thrown into double coverage, the announcers praise Favre for “wanting so much to make a play to help his team.” They praise his endurance and will for having never missed a start since Sept. 27, 1992.
But people fail to mention that through a lot of those consecutive starts, Brett Favre was addicted to painkillers, and possible alcohol abuse as acknowledge by his father, that caused him to enter the NFL’s substance-abuse program in 1996. No one criticized Favre for his unwillingness to mentor Aaron Rodgers, his assumed successor at quarterback.
Back to Bonds: So does wearing a dress excuse Bonds for his history of contempt for the media and stubbornness with teammates? Of course not (just ask Ricky Williams what wearing a wedding dress can do for your career).
But it does reveal a side of Bonds that we rarely see and more importantly one that doesn’t fit into the anti-social and abrasive mold created for him. Perhaps there is a stronger relationship with teammates than previously believed.
Athletes are going to be scrutinized; period. Fame and admiration comes with the negative attention. As a result, most athletes cannot shake the reputation originally given to them.
All of that said, I’m not ready to crown Bonds a sheep in wolf’s clothing, or any other convoluted metaphor. Just keep in mind that as Bonds looks to surpass Babe Ruth with 7 more home runs, and even eclipse Hank Aaron with 48 more majestic swings, that all is not woe and misery. The potential record holder for most career home runs – arguably the most coveted record in all of sports ” may not be the pre-madonna he seems.
Then again, this all occurred on the first day the camera crew showed up for Bonds’ upcoming ESPN reality show depicting his chase for the home run record. As luck would have it, Bonds is now requiring every reporter that talks to him to sign a waiver to appear on his show.
I’ll leave it to you, my enlightened reader, to make the call. Thanks, Barry, for keeping us on our toes.
Bradford Applin is a sophomore aerospace engineer. Anyone with information on Bonds’ next round of auditions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org