Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mike Lupica: Booooo Bonds

Or cheer, just don't make him a martyr

The New York Daily News
31 March 2006

A few days before coming to New York, something he does tomorrow night when he comes to Shea to play the Mets, Barry Bonds gives the kind of interview to Jim Gray of ESPN that celebrities in career trouble, or celebrities desperate for even more attention than they already have, give to Barbara Walters. Bonds doesn't cry for Gray. He does, however, make you want to laugh.

The headline, as far as I could tell, was that he likes himself now, he really likes himself. And wants us to like him, too. It is a little late in the game for that. So is this: Bonds trying to somehow wipe the slate clean. That doesn't work, either. Because he won't come clean. And wasn't.

There was the suggestion that the circus around Bonds, the one that exists around him in San Francisco and everywhere he goes, would subside now that he has caught Babe Ruth and passed him. That surely doesn't happen yet. Only five days after getting to 715, he comes to Shea Stadium. He comes to New York.

They asked him last Sunday about what kind of reception he might get at Shea on Friday night and he said, "I don't care." Except now he gives this interview to Gray and we are supposed to believe he cares deeply about where he fits into the grand scheme of things now that is alone in second place, really alone, on the all-time home run list. He shares things like this about himself:

"I like the person inside of me now."

When Gray asks him about comments he used to make about Ruth, Bonds says he can't remember, but if he said anything bad, that was the "old Barry." He must mean the skinnier one.

The amazing thing, more amazing than the way his home run totals have grown over these past several seasons, is that he was able to deliver a lot of this material with a straight face. You watch the interview and the general sense you get is that Bonds, without coming out and saying it to Gray, thinks we're supposed to feel bad for him about the mistakes he's made. It is a little late in the game for that, too. There are things, he says, he would have done differently. You bet. When he says that about steroids, we'll all listen a lot more attentively.

He is no victim of life's circumstances. And the fans who go out to Shea this weekend should make sure not to do anything that will make him out to be more of a victim. Nobody throws anything this weekend, the way they threw things in other cities. Nobody brings stupid banners. Nobody goes out on the field. Nobody does vulgar chants. Sometimes you have to be better than the guy you come to see.

You want to boo Barry Bonds in New York this weekend, have at him, do it at the top of your lungs, from the top of the first inning tomorrow night. You want to cheer him because you believe he was the best player in baseball for a long time, because you remember him for all those MVP awards he won before he began to grow faster than the budget deficit, because you don't care about steroids and what they've done to him and the record books, stand up and cheer for the guy, it's a free country.

"I'm having more fun in my career than I've had at any time of my life," he says to Jim Gray, and then he says it's because of his teammates.

Right. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the brilliant reporters who wrote "Game of Shadows," have thrown the book at him in all ways, whatever happens with the law out in San Francisco, whether they can pin a perjury rap on him or not. An ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, says that he told her how to hide money he paid her from the government, which historically has made the government real mad.

And most baseball fans believe the only way his home run totals could have gotten this big is if he took everything Fainaru-Wada and Williams say he took. It is something that corrupts the record books and makes him corrupt, in the eyes of people who love the game.

Bonds wants us to believe that he is having the time of his life. So you don't believe what the guy does and you don't believe what the guy says as he gives these interviews and refuses to address the subject of drugs. Until he does, he can tell his story walking, and that doesn't mean to first base.

Gray asks him what he will feel like if he someday has an asterisk attached to his records and Bonds says, "I would be hurt....I'm human."

He treats so many people with contempt along the way and now he wants us to believe he suddenly is the most sensitive guy in the universe. You're surprised he took this to ESPN and not a prime-time special with Dr. Phil. Or an hour with Oprah.

He comes to New York and it should be like what it was when Michael Jordan used to come here to play basketball, or Magic Johnson, when Magic was young and we knew he was going to be at the Garden only one night a year. It does not feel like that.

More than any black hat we ever had here, more than Charlie Barkley in his prime, Bonds makes the whole thing feel like pro wrestling this weekend. Something else that is bulked up and not quite real.

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