Stamp of Disapproval | Left Field | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Stamp of Disapproval

Dear Barry,

Screw you. You complicate my life.

I've been witness to your wondrous talent from the moment you arrived in Pittsburgh. By the time you left, you were already positioning yourself among the greatest of all time: Mays and Ruth, DiMaggio and Williams, Cobb and Clemente, Robinson and Gehrig. And Bonds the Younger. It's undeniable.

Even so, I thought you were a heel then. And it turns out you were a gentleman compared to your 21st-century self.

Your greatness is always countered by your brutish, childish ways. It makes me root for rabbit-eared, pop-fly calling, money-grubbing, bitch-slapping Alex Rodriquez to dethrone you as the home-run king after you replace the great Hank Aaron.

I don't want to root for A-Rod, but you make me do it, Barry.

Your home-run chase has stirred the national media into a fan-bashing frenzy, which you know they love. Because of you, the talking heads get to blow smoke about the hypocrisy of booing you when fans cheer other proven steroid users, like Guillermo Mota of the Mets.

Don't they get it? Mets fans wouldn't cheer for you no matter what. Everything you do is writ so large it casts a shadow over every major-league game.

I hate that the coverage of you distracts from the actual game and takes away from what actually happens on the field of play ... but I must admit that I've enjoyed seeing Commissioner Bud Selig squirm. The only thing more laughable than his stewardship in the 1990s has been his stewardship as baseball confronts you knocking at the door of its most beloved record. Mr. Selig even considering not being in attendance when you break the record is beyond preposterous. If nothing else, your chase of Henry Aaron has kept Bud on the hotseat: Will Bud be there? Won't he? Good times.

In fact, I almost admire your defiance. The constant scrutiny -- or the "witch hunt," as you've called it -- never throws you off course. Some athletes would crumble under this pressure. No player has been such a blazing rallying point for scorn in my lifetime as you. Honestly, I haven't had this much fun despising a player since Pete Rose. So thanks for that, at least.

But while you were always a jerk-off, I used to think you were at least an honest, in-your-face, what-you-see jerk-off. Now, I'm not so sure.

As Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams chronicled in Game of Shadows, you got fleas when you laid down with the BALCO dogs. You deny steroid use, but if you're innocent, why haven't you sued those guys for libel?

Part of me wants to believe that part of you is deliberately taking the WWE route. You have to know you're one of the greatest sports villains of all time, making Ric Flair and the Iron Sheik look like Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

But while you say you don't care about the Hall of Fame, I don't believe you. It's obvious from your every at-bat that you do care about being the best of all.

So I wonder how the Lizzy Borden treatment will affect you in your later years. While she was acquitted of double murder, she was shunned by the society set of which she so desperately wanted to be a part. I suspect the same will happen to you: You'll be acquitted, but shunned. Barry Bonds took a bat, gave the record book 700-plus whacks ... and when fans saw what he had done, they gave Barry a mental asterisk.

You may not care about how people treat you while you're near the height of your magnificent gifts, but you may feel differently as you get older ... and fans refer to your home-run records with a smirk. Age has a way of humbling most of us -- maybe even you, Barry.

You are the finest all-around ball player I've ever seen. You will break this record. You're the perfect symbol for this era of baseball: complicated, difficult and brilliant. Considering it all, I have to wish you continued success.

You heartless prick.

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By Mars Johnson