Barry Bonds sucks. He could be the last great African American baseball player for a generation as many African American youth turn to basketball and football as their sport of choice but he still sucks. The decline in African American interest in baseball varies but the interest in Barry Bonds is lacking primarily because of the steroids issue. This article takes a look at African American interest in the American pastime and a look at the most prominent African American player and the games most controversial player Barry Bonds.
The reasons why African Americans are not watching baseball vary. Barriers to play the game, the marketing of the game and socio-economic factors have all played a role in the decline in interest. Unlike basketball for instance there are barriers to play baseball, costs of bats helmets, uniforms places to play, while many cities have cut recreational park funding.
Other reasons for African American lack of interest have to do with the marketing of the sport to black youth, by not connecting the legacy of great black players from the past the Jackie Robinson, Satchel Page, Josh Gibson, Frank Robinson Willie Mayes, and Hank Aaron with the modern era baseball players.
Additionally, baseball more than any other sport is one of fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons a sport where one has to become interested in and vested in as a youth. Many baseball fans of today site with great memory and lore the first time their father took them to a baseball game. That collective memory is lacking within the African American community where it had once existed. Though clearly not conclusive, the war on black men in America and as a consequence the lack of fathers in many African American households has too contributed to the decline in interest.
Barry Bonds’ chase for the home run record held by another African American Hank Aaron should be the attention grabber needed to reawaken African American interest in baseball. (A note here on African American interest and major league baseball players although African American interest and players have declined, there are many baseball players and fans of African-Cuban, African-Dominican descent who like African Americans are black descendants of slavery regardless of how they choose to identify themselves today). The problem is that it’s hard to get behind Barry because you can not mention Barry Bonds’ name without thinking the word steroids. One thinks of cheater and Balco the company that supplied many athletes with performance enhancing drugs a company in which Barry Bonds was a client. Bonds has never tested positive for steroids, however, baseball did not start testing until a couple of years ago under Congressional pressure. Baseball turned a blind eye while Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and later Barry Bonds shattered the single season home run record by more than 20 home runs a record that stood for more than 40 years without anyone suspicious of the sudden explosion in home runs and no steroid testing.
Although there has not been an admission of steroid use by Bonds, there is clear and convincing evidence of performance enhancement use some of which are laid out in the bestselling book Game of Shadows. Which brings into question what good is a record if it is broken by cheating, not just a record but the most important record in a game that relies on its history and its statistical records.
Barry Bonds appears to be a man of many contradictions, a student of the game, a great player without the steroid allegations, yet he is biblically self-interested. If its is true that he used steroids one must wonder how can he look himself in the mirror knowing that he cheated and is chasing the record of a true African-American sports legend Hank Aaron who had to put up with threats too his life when chasing Babe Ruth’s record.
So one wonders what Bonds tells himself. Everyone did it? They are just after me? If Bonds had retired two or three years ago, while third or fourth on the homerun list the baseball powers may have turned a blind eye to the steroid era. But Bonds’ pursuit of the sports most significant record has caused him to bring the harshest criticism and the scrutiny upon himself. He should have respected the game the African American baseball legends that came before him and exited the game gracefully. But that’s not Barry.
If Bonds goes on to break the homerun record and the baseball world celebrates, it would be celebrating a sham that everybody knows is a sham. Politically it would be akin to celebrating an election victory for a dictator when everyone knows the election was fixed. If Bonds goes on to break Aaron’s record, it is not a cause for celebration, it should be ridiculed. Hank Aaron has stated that he will not be there when it happens he will not watch. He’s right. ESPN should not cover it, no one should applaud, and no one should watch