Why We Must Respect Barry Bonds

By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Updated: August 8, 2007

NEW YORK — I was recently invited on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to discuss the alleged steroid, I mean, home run king, Barry Bonds.

I was happy to hear that a major black show was going to weigh in on the issue, since the predominantly white media tends to let racism mess everything up.

Even the most rational journalists can’t escape the infection of color-driven perception when covering black male athletes, since they can’t tell an inmate from a surgeon if they both have braids in their hair.

I’ve always respected Tom Joyner, especially after hearing that he once flew each day between Dallas and Chicago to host two separate radio shows. To put it bluntly, that’s gangsta.

There are some people willing to kill to become successful, and Tom might be one of those people.

I also have some degree of respect for Barry Bonds. But I must lace my respect with a teeny bit of reservation. Why the reservation? Because Barry can be a complete jackass.

Not just a jerk to some people, but to nearly ALL people, especially journalists.

Anyone can understand the desire to treat the media like crap, but you can’t be disrespectful to the media and then get upset that they are making you look bad. Human beings tend to be quite human, and journalists get angry like everyone else.

In spite of his personality flaws, the fact remains that Barry Bonds must be given his “props”.

He’s one of the all-time greats in Major League Baseball, and there’s no denying that.

Even if he got involved in the whole doping era of his sport, it was likely MLB’s blind eye approach to steroids that caused the problems, not Barry Bonds.

The athletes around him were juicing more than a Tropicana Factory, so there is no way you can talk about Bonds without talking about problems with baseball itself.

Also consider this: had it not been for the raid on the BALCO labs, none of this would have been uncovered. How many not-yet raided labs are producing drugs for athletes right now? You will probably never know.

The steroid policy in Major League Baseball has as much teeth as a new born baby, and if the policy were stronger, then great players like Bonds would be able to find a way to naturally beat the competition.

However, when you’ve just lost fans because of a strike, it’s much easier to fill the stands with juiced up players performing super human feats than with natural players with amazing talent.

Remember: Baseball is a business more than anything else.

The “asterisk theory” is also interesting. This is the argument that Bonds’ records should have an asterisk next to them because they may have been obtained under questionable circumstances.

OK, well, if you want to put qualifiers next to athletic records, let’s start with the pre-integration era. During this period, every record on the books was obtained without having to compete against black people.

If steroids are a performance enhancer, then racism is a magnified performance booster that also allows you to completely rid yourself of the competition. In fact, some would even call it cheating.

Did Babe Ruth cheat his way to greatness? You should ask some of the great hitters in the Negro Leagues who had to hit against Satchel Paige.

The past 15 years were an ugly period for baseball, and someone is going to have to pay. Barry is going to pay by dealing with Federal authorities and a public that makes him wish he were caught dog fighting instead.

But the price should not only be paid by Barry Bonds alone, for he is the little fish in this scam. Instead, it should be paid by baseball itself, which may have sold its soul in the 90’s.