Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

Giants looked other way for Bonds

March 10, 2006


— Don't pout, Giants fans.

You still have a chance to see real, legitimate history this season.

You have a chance to see the most reviled athlete of all time.

OK, so that's not exactly the history you were anticipating. It's not the kind of thing that makes you want to shoot off fireworks or celebrate with champagne and tears of joy.

But you can still tell your grandkids about it.

"Sonny, if you think these guys are bad role models, let me tell you about the player I used to watch."

Bonds has already achieved his spot in history, one that needs no asterisk.

There have been other surly athletes, like Ted Williams. There have been other bad teammates, like Terrell Owens. There have been other cheaters, like Ben Johnson and Bill Romanowski. There have been others who disgraced their sports - heck, I just saw a slew of them at the Winter Olympics.

But has there ever been one athlete who had it all, in the way Bonds does? Has there ever been a complete package of such negative characteristics who also happens to be chasing the most hallowed record in sports?

No, there hasn't.

The undertone I'm hearing from Giants fans - in the uproar over the new book "Game of Shadows" by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters - is that they feel cheated.

They want their fun. They want their fantasy. They want to see history.

Well, they should feel cheated. But not by authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who simply followed a hot story, one worthy of a comprehensive book, and present a meticulously reported and collection of evidence.

They should feel cheated by their errant hero Bonds. And by the organization whose colors they proudly wear, an organization that has been a complicit partner in this tawdry story.

Bonds' fans may choose to be naive, but they shouldn't assume that same attribute applies to their team. I can't tell you how many shrugs, eye-rolls and nods have accompanied private conversations about Bonds with various members of the Giants' organization. They assume the same things about Bonds' behavior that (most of) the rest of us do. They also know he makes millions for them. So they look the other way.

Now the leaders of the organization run screaming from the room when asked to answer a question about Bonds, the man to whom they have abdicated the legacy of their team.

It's an embarrassing look for the once-proud franchise. Anyone who has read this column for any length of time knows that I was raised on black-and-orange. My late father was an avid Giants fan. My family, my husband, my kids - they all follow the Giants.

On Wednesday morning, my 14-year-old glanced at the paper, sighed and said, "I used to like Barry Bonds. I want to like Barry Bonds."

Ouch, tough lessons. Ones that all of us would prefer to avoid. And judging by the fanatics who phone in to the Giants' flagship radio station, many are avoiding. Or teaching a different lesson to their kids: Avoid rational thought, shun logical thinking, go only on faith (and slugging percentage).

Debating Barry Bonds: It's our own little version of evolution vs. creationism.

By allowing tainted Bonds to become the centerpiece of their franchise, with no apologies, the Giants have created a legacy and image that will take a very long time to overcome.


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