Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Saturday, May 12, 2007

They Write Letters

A recent survey found that most white folks don’t think the negative perception of Barry Bonds has anything to do with race. On the other hand, most of our African-American brethren believe the opposite.

The subjects of Barry Bonds and race are prime fodder for the boneheads on sports talk radio and indignant letter writers. The eds at the Tribune Tower do not disappoint, selecting this letter from Chicago’s William P. Gottschalk for publication:

Allegations…that aversion to Barry Bonds and disinterest in, and/or disgust with, his likely successful assault on Henry Aaron’s home run record are racially motivated are outrageous and irresponsible.

Any objective and honest study would find equal disdain for Sammy Sosa, who at last look is Hispanic, and for Mark McGwire, who certainly seems to be white. Pete Rose, who is banned from baseball and thus ineligible for the Hall of Fame, is also white.

The conclusion is that we do not respect, and will not honor, cheaters and liars, regardless of race, creed, or color. Barry Bonds’ limited number of supporters are merely cloaking themselves in the mantle of racism in order to try to cloud the real issue, which is that, despite all his talent, he has cheated and lessened the game.

As long as we’re being objective and honest, let’s look at how the players Mr. G references before the drug and gambling scandals caught up with them:

Before he charmed the world with his 66 homers and Pepsi adverts, Sammy Sosa was not the beloved cartoon character he turned into. When he was a member of the White Sox, many pundits considered him an uncoachable malcontent. He took a lot of criticism (some deserved, some not) during his first six years as a Cub for being a selfish player who torpedoed the Cubs’ chances to win with his desire to pad his own stats.

McGwire was an all-American hero who led the A’s to three consecutive World Series appearances. When the andro was found in his locker, hordes of people leapt to his defense, outraged that anyone would dare taint his awesome assault on the record book.

Jim and I have vowed not to mention Charlie Hustler, so I’ll make this as brief as possible. The Hustler claimed his innocence for nearly twenty years. That fraud was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by thousands of fans and journamalists. Right up until the time he admitted that he had been lying.

Finally, I remember Bonds bashing as far back as 1990, during the Pirates’ last period of excellence. The scripts about Bonds’ surly, selfish ways got their start back then. Also making the rounds – whispers of his unsavory actions in college, as further explored by Jeff Pearlman and others. There were some people who swore on a stack of Bibles that Bobby Bonilla was a much, much better player than Bonds (no, that last bit is not relevant to the topic, but it’s always amazed me).

If you’re scoring at home, that’s two white guys who got the benefit of the doubt, and two not-white guys who were treated with “aversion, disinterest, and/or disgust.” Bonds and Sosa were taking heat long before they began bashing at home run records.

It certainly could just be coincidence. This is not even close to being a rigorous study of public attitudes towards these four players. And there have been white players lambasted for being selfish jerks, just as there have been black players lauded for their achievements.

But as much as we like to pretend, our society is not color-blind (recent debates over whether Barack Obama is “black enough” to connect with black voters is the latest example of that). It is disingenuous to say that race has absolutely nothing to do with Bonds’ issues. Just as it is disingenuous to say that race has absolutely everything to with them.

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