Chicago Barry Bonds' record of 73 home runs would be so much more impressive if it weren't for the fact that (1) he's as fun as a toothache, (2) baseball statistics are a joke these days and (3) oh, I don't know, we're at war?
Other than that, way to go, Barry!
So many things have conspired to make Bonds' feat seem hollow that you have to wonder if this wasn't some sort of cosmic comeuppance for our surly friend, who could turn a gathering of Quakers into "The Jerry Springer Show."
The last time the home run mark fell, way back in 1998, things were a lot different. Mark McGwire, pushed along by Sammy Sosa, was the object of a national love-in when he broke Roger Maris' record. There he was hugging his son at home plate, finally appreciating the affirmation of the crowd and generally looking like a guy who just had a painful boil lanced.
Bonds didn't receive nearly the same amount of instant gratification for his own record, what with the nation drooling on its pillow and all. Bonds hit his 71st and 72nd home runs Friday night to break McGwire's mark, but the game didn't end until 12:30 a.m., San Francisco time, or way past Chicago's bedtime.
The Giants-Dodgers matchup lasted 4 hours, 27 minutes, the longest nine-inning game in major-league history, meaning baseball's normal lazy pace had slowed to barely perceptible spasms by the last out in the ninth.
Bonds received the kind of reception a wanderer might in the middle of the desert. The few fans remaining in the stands stirred when the platform appeared on the field for the Bonds tribute, then rearranged their blankets and went back to sleep.
And with the Dodgers winning 11-10, knocking the Giants out of playoff contention, you had the makings of a wake, not a celebration. Even Bonds looked as if he wanted to be somewhere else. In the playoffs, I think.
Much of what Bonds accomplished toward the end of the season took place against the smoky backdrop of Sept. 11. And nothing was the same after that, including fun at the old ballpark.
Take away the terrorist attacks, though, and I'm not sure he would have found any more love. If anyone can empty 73 home runs of meaning and joy, it's Bonds.
His defenders say he is misunderstood, that his problem with mankind is actually a perception problem. In other words we're unable to see his glares, snarls and general arrogance for what they really are: messages of love.
If that weren't enough, Bonds broke a record that has lost a lot of its luster. The 73 home runs came only three years after McGwire hit 70. So McGwire's accomplishment did not, as the marketing people like to put it, have legs, unless you're talking about a dachshund.
Maris' record lasted 37 years until McGwire broke it. McGwire's record lasted as long as a good Elizabeth Taylor marriage
Today's baseball numbers are funny numbers. When Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927, George Sisler finished second in the majors with 19. Sosa was second to Bonds this season with 64. Yet we're starting to hear Bonds mentioned in the same breath as the Babe. That's almost as ludicrous as ESPN choosing Michael Jordan over Ruth as the athlete of the 20th century.