What Is Bonds' Stock as Record Looms?

    For those of you that were around to read the inaugural Sports Retort, you may remember that the first topic of conversation was Barry Bonds. You may also know that this reporter has a NorCal bias and is the biggest Giants fan you will ever meet. But before you flip this paper over to read the news section, I promise you that this is not a purely opinionated column to try and convince you to worship the man. Rather, I would call this column an experiment, or a study of sorts, into the mind of the average UCSD sports fan.

    I’ve already made the arguments, to my Dodger-fan friends and to my readers, that Bonds didn’t necessarily take steroids and that he is a great hitter no matter what he did. I’d like to change my approach, however, to make the argument that steroid usage is not inherently wrong.

    First, the important thing to understand is that cheating implies breaking the rules. The “”cream and clear”” that Bonds has admitted using was not against the rules of Major League Baseball at the time, so all claims that Bonds is a cheater are unfounded.

    The next critique of Bonds is that he is an immoral disgrace because he violated the unwritten laws of the game by taking steroids and gaining an unfair advantage over other players. But other players are technically allowed to take steroids, and more players than anyone is willing to admit actually do. More importantly, plenty of pitchers were juiced, meaning Bonds was actually leveling the playing field more than he was raising it.

    Another common criticism of Bonds is that he is not a role model like Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr. are. In response, I ask every one of you: Since when is it mandated that athletes be respectable role models? Sure, good-natured and friendly athletes deserve their popularity and endorsement deals, but Bonds’ surly demeanor shouldn’t discount his mind-boggling statistics. If we are to enforce a rule that athletes cannot use performance-enhancing drugs because it sets a bad example, then we should also require that parents not use drugs or alcohol – two vices that do much more harm to the body than most performance-enhancers.

    I think that these three arguments are valid and should convince some of you out there that Bonds is not the evil man he is made out to be. He may have used steroids, but who are we, as fans, to judge this decision?

    We’ve all made errors in judgment and Bonds, given the pressures that come with being a superstar athlete, is no saint. But to take away all of this incredible athlete’s accomplishments because of suspicion, allegations and biased opinion would be despicable.

    The inspiration for this column was a 10-page research paper I did for a communications class called the Cultural Politics of Sport. The class taught me to approach this debate from a more academic and philosophical standpoint, and this column relays just a fraction of what I wrote about for the class.

    For those of you still reading but hating me for writing about Bonds again, please give me feedback. Email me at [email protected] and write a comment about this story. But please, read on before you leave a useless comment like the ones I get from most dimwitted fans that go something like this: “”Bonds sucks. Giants suck. You suck. Steroids. Go L.A.””

    Another reason I want feedback is to poll UCSD students about their feelings as Bonds approaches the career home-run record. ESPN and ABC funded their own poll and found that only 37 percent of the nation is rooting for Bonds to break Aaron’s mark of 755, 52 percent hope he doesn’t and 11 percent have no opinion.

    A more important poll, which asked whether Bonds is the greatest home-run hitter ever, found that only 8 percent of fans confirmed this statement. In comparison, 72 percent of active MLB players, the ones who know baseball, home runs and steroids best, agreed.

    I’m curious about the sentiment of the average UCSD student. UCSD is full of NorCal Giants fans, but even more overrun with Dodger and Angel fans from Southern California. Add in the couple of fair-weather Yankee and Red Sox fans and I believe we have a solid polling pool to gauge people’s reactions to Bonds. So please, if you agree with me, let me know. If you think I’m the stupidest person to ever touch on this subject, then say so, but do it in an intellectual sense rather than an insult-laden rant with no basis. And chime in about whether you are rooting for him, against him or couldn’t care less.

    I will have a hard time respecting those who don’t care, however. Disagree with me if you must, but don’t back away from what is the most interesting sports story in years, as the most hated man in all of professional sports is on the verge of breaking the biggest record in sports history.

    What does 756 home runs mean to you?

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