Friday, November 16, 2007


                                      BARRY BONDS, HERO OR FOE? YOU DECIDE

By Fahim A. Knight

PRIDE---- BABE RUTH 1895--1948 Ruth's professional Major League Baseball career extended 21 years from 1914-1935. He had his share of off the field problems with women, broken marriages, alcoholism, etc. Roger Maris in 1961 hit 61 home runs and would break Babe Ruth single home run record of 60, which had stood for 37 years prior to that time. Ruth would go on to hit a career record of 714 home runs. But no one accused Ruth of cheating and reaching these magical numbers in an unethical way.

INTEGRITY---- Hank Aaron is known best for breaking Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974 and put up some awesome career numbers on the field. Aaron broke Ruth’s record at his 715 career home run and went on to hit 755 career home runs. Aaron's career expand the tremulous 1960's and 1970's in which America was plagued with social issues such as segregation, racism, Civil Rights and the role of the black athlete was not well defined (many of them chose to be apolitical). Some blacks criticized Aaron for being somewhat apolitical during a time of their quest for social justice because he and Muhammad Ali were, perhaps two of the most visible black and high profile athletes in America during this era. Some whites met Aaron’s record breaking home run with taunts of racism because the Babe had become an untouchable sports icon (idolized by the dominant white society). Whether we agree or disagree with Hank Aaron's political stance is not the issue, but no one has ever accused him of cheating and he earned his accomplishments and accolades on the field as a tough competitor and professional. He is a Hall Famer with a solid place in Cooperstown.

Charles Barkley---Charles Barkley was a high profile National Basketball Association player who at 6'6'' (more like 6'3") and weighed over 250 lbs. was very quick, agile and athletic for a man his size. And from 1984-2000 was one of the best and toughest power forwards ever to play the game. In 2006 he was bestowed one of the greatest honors for a basketball athlete, which was to be inducted in to the NBA Hall of Fame for his on the court accomplishments.

Barkley is of interest to this topic in dealing with Barry Bonds because during his playing career he was very controversial and very out spoken. Perhaps one of his most infamous and controversial statement dealt with his public proclamation that he was not a role model for children. I agreed with Barkley's underlining rationale for taking this position and his statement that the true role models should be the parents and not the athlete. But I still disagreed with him absolving himself of any personal responsibility to perhaps the millions of children that did view him as a role model and was emulating him as an icon.

However, Barkley's arguments goes to the root of some ethical questions, which is, should athletes have to bear this responsibility just because they are public figures and if he does not view himself as role model, does that implicate him as being less concern with impressionable children that do idolize him? And/or do we unfairly hold the athlete to a higher moral standard and set them up for failure when they do not totally capitulate to societal standards.

JOSE CONSECO---Jose Conseco in his book title, "JUICED: Wild Times, Rampant Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball got Big." He explored the rampant use of steroids that were allege being taken by Major League Baseball players (including himself), which in some instances went ignored by managers, coaches, and owners because of the on field productivity that was being displayed on the field by these "juiced" up athletes. Moreover, they were good for the bottom line financial figures (Mark Mc Gwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, etc). In 2005 Congress held Congressional Hearings to explore the wide spread problems associated with baseball and steroid use.

Thus, two of the biggest name players in all of baseball were summons to testify Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, in which both of them were accused of using steroids and during their allege performance enhancing (steroids) usage both players put up huge home run numbers and captivated the interest of Americans to once again embrace America's past time (baseball and apple pie) sport known as baseball.

Mark Mc Gwire to date has been denied entry in to the Baseball Hall of Fame because of his accusation of cheating and as a result broke some long standing MLB records and many sports writers and fans believe he is undeserving of such a lofty honor to be inducted into baseball most coveted shrine the Hall of Fame. This was not unprecedented because Pete Rose the all time baseball career hits champion has been denied entry into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame due his conviction of gambling on baseball games.

Some athletes viewed Conseco "whistle blowing" as an unpardonable sin because professional athletes in particular and athletes on all levels in general, share a brotherly bond and an unwritten code of ethics; therefore what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. This code of conduct is no different than those that belong to civic and social groups such as: The Elks, Masons, Shriners, Odd Fellows, Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), college fraternities and sororities, etc., thus these social groups have oaths that bind them to secrecy and they are obligated to cover down on their brother or sister regardless of his/her conduct.

Sports clubs are no different, these individuals become like family. They learn to win and lose together, as well as, develop emotional bonds and lastly, how dare Jose Conseco would allow himself to become a Judas and a "snitch" exposing former teammates who participated in the use of steroids? and eventually Conseco's testimony led to Barry Bonds and other high profile baseball players coming under the microscope and being accused of being JUICED and outside the lines of MLB ethical code of conduct in which players must abide by.

AMBIVALENCE----- BARRY BONDS is the son, of the late Bobby Bonds who was a very good Major League Baseball player in his own right and is the godson of perhaps one of the greatest baseball players in the history of baseball in Willie Mays. He came in to the league as an average home run hitter with the Pittsburgh Pirates and in six years with Pirates averaged about 25 home runs a year. The most he hit for the Pirates was 36 home runs in one season.

Bonds was eventually traded to the San Francisco Giants where in one season he hit a record 73 home runs breaking Mark Mc Gwire's record of 70. Skeptics and pundits alike began to accuse and allege that Bonds were using performance enhancing steroids which provided him with the physical strength to do the unthinkable---hitting 73 home runs in a single season.
Major League Baseball and the Players Union did not have a steroid testing program or disciplinary action in place until 2002. Bonds admitted to using some form of steroids as nutritional supplements prior to the Major League ban substance rules and policies, which should render the steroid allegations as being a moot point because at the time in question he was inside the rules.

Bonds has surpassed Hank Aaron’s monumental record of 755 home runs and now sit on top of Major League Baseball as the all time home runs King. Bonds' steroid controversy has placed a dark cloud over this perhaps historical and one of the most coveted awards in all of major league sports. There are people on both sides of the debate (is Bonds a hero or villain?)
And do you remember during Bonds home run stretch, even Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig initially was not going to be present nor was Hank Aaron making any plans to share in Bonds moment once he broke the home run record. But both Seliq and Aaron later obliged Bonds with words of praise for his milestone. Moreover, Selig perhaps initially did not want to appear of giving endorsement to Bonds by sending mix messages relative to his now zero tolerance policy for steroid use.

Yet he was embracing perhaps one of the biggest allege cheaters in professional sports history. But, how could baseball in good conscience not have embraced Bonds and the record after-all these were mere allegations that were unproven in a court of law? Major League Baseball had to re-assess their anti-Barry Bonds tactics because the sport needed a boost and this writer is quite sure they financially capitalized off the marketing of Bonds hitting his record breaking 756 home runs. Baseball after all is big business.

This writer can understand why some people might choose not to embrace Bonds because of the appearance of impropriety and the allegation that he may have use performance enhancing steroids and this gave him an unfair advantage and could be considered as a form of cheating, which by societal rules is unethical. However, we are taught that an individual is innocent until proven guilty and at this juncture it has not been proven that Bonds committed any offense worthy of Major League Baseball shunning him and the historical moment he recently achieved.

It can be argued that he should receive the same honors of any athlete who breaks a major record. Bonds is by far one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game and deserving when the time comes to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Bonds controversy is perhaps steeped in a much larger societal issues of drugs and the culture that breeds corruption and shun integrity. Bonds has tested negative since the Major League Baseball ban substance rule was put in place, but at any point if it is discovered that he used steroids then a permanent asterisk should be placed by his name and the record, with an explanation that states he cheated and this could be grounds to deny him induction into the Hall of Fame.

This writer thinks Barry Bonds recent indictment of perjury and obstruction of justice, as far as him lying to a Federal Grand Jury points to evidence that we live in a culture and society that has been shaped by money, drugs, sex and lies. The Bonds issue was not created in a vacuum, but athletes who show outstanding athletic potential from little league are afforded special privileges and are permitted to violate rules early on in their lives. The incentive to win on all levels by means necessary is indicative of a pathological culture and society that have gone astray and is only motivated by greed and winning at all cost; even if it meant resorting to cheating.

Sadly, professional sports and their billionaire owners view athletes as commodities (high price slaves) and they are always seeking the highest financial returns on their investments. The problems in sports can not be resolved unless you begin to address it from the top--down and not from the bottom--up. Bonds for twenty-two years had been able to positively affect baseball corporate financial bottom line. This writer wonders will the United States Justice Department ever indict the huge pharmaceutical companies who makes trillion of dollars SELLING DRUGS?

Just a thought: how much does race factor into the bonds equation, if any? Bonds relationship with the media and the fans has been at best strained and he is viewed by many as being egotistical and temperamental. Thus, there has been a love--hate relationship with Bonds throughout his career even before he started breaking high profile records. This writer does not view many athlete worthy to be looked upon as role models but they do have a responsibility to be good public stewards and to accept the fact that their high profile images lends itself to children idolizing the public persona being advertised.

If our society is going to be elevated, then cheating, dishonesty, corruption, etc., can not be tolerated nor condone above morality and ethical behavior. No, one should be above this standard including Barry Bonds, but we all have our own moral compasses and this is what makes the Barry Bonds issue both intriguing and debatable.

Fahim A. Knight Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power.

Fahim A. Knight

1 comment:

Malik Melech Soliman said...

This was a good read, sadly not everyone has the attention span to read this long a blog article...but I did. I will come through from time to time. I did not agree with every single point, but I agreed more then I disagreed, so it makes little sense to argue the smaller points of indifference. Stay blogging brother...peace.