sports (2006-14)

Bonds and Summitt should get their due

Of ‘Roids and Records

by Tony Basilio

Enough of the record geeks going off about the sanctity of the game. One may think that Barry Bonds and Pat Summitt have committed crimes the way they carry on about Dean Smith’s number of wins in men’s basketball and Hank Aaron’s immortal 755 home runs.

Give me a break! Why can’t we celebrate the greatness of Bonds and Summitt? Why can’t we just enjoy things without having to always look behind the curtain? Let the Wizard keep his mystique. Didn’t you enjoy Bonds’ drive for 72 a couple of years back? Hasn’t Summitt given us thrill after thrill with the barnstorming Lady Vols?

In wrestling they call them the “Smarts.” It’s short for “Smart Marks.” A Smart Mark is someone who knows it’s fake yet enjoys it all the same. In sports these days we have a culture of fans and media types who are “smart idiots!” Why can’t we just enjoy this thing called sport for what it is? It’s so predictable these days: We build up these people to epic proportions where they can’t possibly meet the expectations placed on them.

At one time Summitt’s Lady Vols were seen as the standard-bearer in women’s hoops. Now, they can’t even get a fair shake in their sport, let alone from the likes of Wilbon and Kornheiser who both spent several minutes on ESPN’s popular daily Pardon the Interruption after the tourney brackets came out chiding Summitt for rightfully complaining about the Lady Vols No. 2 seed. Where is the respect?

These same people who were loving on her for getting 900 wins and for all the national titles were now saying that she seems aloof and above her own game. It’s almost as if the tourney selection committee set out to prove a point to Summitt. They might as well have come out and exclaimed “You’re not any better than the rest of us, so take that!”

Truth is, Summitt is better than any of them! In fact, she is the best basketball coach to ever live. Men or women. And don’t give me this crap about how you can’t compare men and women’s hoops. She has the all-time record. And there isn’t a damn thing any of you blowhard talk show hosts and alleged sportswriters can do about it.

 Mark Packer had a good point a couple of years ago when he said he was curious what would happen if the men and the ladies hooked up. I’d like to see that myself. We could have Bob Kesling, Mickey Dearstone, Bert Bertlekamp and Kara Lawson (of ESPN) all call the action together. Why can’t we just celebrate greatness for what it is?

Barry Bonds’ foibles are exposed for all to see in Game of Shadows , by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. This hatchet duo are also Giants’ beat writers for the San Francisco Chronicle . Perhaps that’s the penis envy that’s led them to tear down Barry Bonds and explain his steroid use with some psychoanalytical nonsense designed to turn Bonds into the venomous villain.

Nice guy or not, Barry Bonds is the best baseball player of his generation. So what if he’s not au naturale? How many in his current game can make that claim? It’s all relative. Do you think guys like Roger Clemens are 100 percent pure? Have you seen the arms and legs on some of the closers in the game today? Yet, it’s Barry Bonds who gets singled out.

To be fair to the writers of the book, they do look at the emergence of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, which inevitably led Bonds toward the path of pills, needles and creams that he chose. Excerpts from Game of Shadows reveal that Bonds grew madly jealous of Sosa and McGwire during the ’98 season, when both guys left the Giants slugger in the dust and relegated to the back burner.

So Bonds did what any competitive, type A++++ individual would’ve done. He looked for an edge. So what if he found it in a vial? He still had to do the workout regimen associated with his newfound edge. He still had to sweat it out in the gym. There are no short cuts. Even in the wonderful world of steroids.

Barry Bonds is now being vilified for taking part in the resuscitation of major league baseball. Put it this way. What would the game look like today if Bonds, Sosa and McGwire didn’t decide to augment their respective games by all means necessary? Baseball was in dire need of a shot in the arm following the strike of ‘94 that wiped out the entire post season. No World Series. No nothing. Scorched Earth was the model of the day.

Let Bonds enjoy his chase for 756 in peace. Maybe he does have more ‘roids in him than the ’88 East German Olympic swim team. Still, he does have tremendous skill to go with the newfound brawn. I for one will recognize him as the Home Run Champ. Just as I recognize Pat Summitt as the winningest all time coach in college basketball!

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