Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bonds will pale compared to Woods

August 16, 2007

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Given time, 18 will be the new 755.

It might take another six or seven years, but Tiger Woods' chase of Jack Nicklaus' 18 major golf championships will become sports' last honorable quest for immortality. It will have less to do with Woods being liked, or our collective obsession with star power.

It will be about trust.

In golf, it's up to you to call yourself out if the ball moves barely a fraction when it shouldn't. It's up to you to make sure the score on your card is correct before you sign it.

The sport has an honor code, a commitment to individual responsibility that baseball has forever lost.

Alex Rodriguez could catch Barry Bonds' career home-run record in another seven years. He could hit 800 before he's through, but his pursuit of history will not reverberate as deeply as Tiger's pursuit of Nicklaus because baseball cannot restore its public confidence.

Many are already counting down the days until A-Rod passes Bonds, believing that will restore credibility and celebration to an achievement generally dismissed as fraudulent because of steroid allegations against Bonds.

But it took 39 years for someone to pass Babe Ruth's record. It took 33 for someone to pass Henry Aaron. It could take less than 10 to pass Bonds.

The single-season home run record changed hands twice in three years after changing only twice in the previous 71 years. When a generation passes between historical touchstones, you know its impact resonates beyond the game. It becomes a cultural phenomenon. But Bonds' record-breaking shot last week marked the third time in the last nine years that baseball's two most cherished power records had a new owner.

Hasn't baseball learned that when records are broken so frequently, the actions breed suspicion?

That's why the general reaction to Bonds' 756th home run was a collective yawn.

That's why A-Rod can't come to the rescue in the coming years.

That's why this is now, indisputably, Tiger Time. We're witness to a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle unfolding before our increasingly skeptical eyes.

The irony is that golf, a sport that's considered too deliberate for our frenetic tastes, too delicate for our smashmouth athletic passions, is producing a personality that could swell television numbers over the next five years.

And while steroids could infiltrate golf, there is no under-the-table, chemically based cocktail that can turn an already great golfer into an ungodly champion.

Gary Player recently raised suspicions about steroid use on the tour. It's not outlandish, especially if you're seeking extra yardage off the tee. Wouldn't you rather hit a 9-iron approach into the green as opposed to a 7-iron?

Baseball breathed a huge sigh of relief after Bonds hit his home run and almost instantaneously dropped off the public radar.

But it's not over. It's only the beginning. The callous indifference toward baseball's hallowed benchmarks will continue to spread, denying Bonds' eventual successor of the title of savior.

If it's A-Rod, he'll just get tossed into a widening pool of suspicion. You just can't trust what you see in baseball. It's increasingly difficult to trust anything you see in sports.

But Tiger's chase of Jack's magical number 18 might offer the last opportunity to take that fanciful leap of faith.

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