Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Fading spotlight a nightmare for Bonds

May 6, 2010

When Barry Bonds was playing baseball he seemed to crave attention. He wanted and needed the spotlight to be fixated on him. But like a spoiled child, he did not care if the attention was positive or negative as long as people were talking about him. For Bonds, the negative far outweighed the positive.San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds watches from the dugout in the second inning as the Giants take on the San Diego Padres during their MLB National League baseball game in San Francisco, California in this September 24, 2007 file photo. Bonds tested positive for steroids in November 2001, just a month after hitting his record 73rd home run of the season, U.S. prosecutors said on February 15, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files

Jeff Pearlman, who wrote Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero, sums Bonds up perfectly as “the undisputed president and CEO of the AMSAPS (Arrogant, Mean-Spirited Athletes in Professional Sports) Movement. Inside clubhouses, he scowled at teammates, reporters and club employees as if they were grime beneath his freshly manicured fingernails. On the field, he ignored 99 percent of fans who called his name, desperate for an autograph, a wave or even a simple nod. He treated his personal staffers like cockroaches and his wives like broken appliances.”

Now that it has been over two years since he has played in a professional game, his tireless work to be the most discussed player is still paying modest dividends, albeit in a twisted and increasingly diminished way.

ESPN the Magazine conducted an anonymous player poll during spring training consisting of 20 ‘hot-button’ issues, including the elimination of the designated hitter and what the reaction in the clubhouse would be to an openly gay team mate. But there was one question — should Barry Bonds be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame? — that will grab most, if not all, of the attention. The answer is inconsequential. It is the name, Barry Bonds, that will generate the discussion.

I am guilty. I admit it. Bonds’s name in a headline is akin to the car accident on the side of the road. You know you should not look, and yet your car slows down and your jaw drops open while you take in every gruesome detail.

Rob Neyer of ESPN recently wrote that Bonds is gone and will soon be forgotten, but that has not happened yet. Neyer writing about Bonds, who passed Hank Aaron to become MLB’s career home run leader in 2007, proves that he still matters.

Granted, part of the reason Bonds still remains pertinent is because he was such a polarizing figure. The masses love drama.

But how long can he sustain this kind of fame? The only reason Mark McGwire’s name became relevant recently was his admission to using steroids. Bonds still faces perjury charges stemming from grand jury testimony he had not used performance enhancing drugs.

Fans and the media are quickly forgetting his exploits on the field and are only remembering the CEO of the AMSAPS.

His chances of enshrinement in Cooperstown remain as low as they did after his last season.

What may be worse than his exclusion from the NBHOF is Bonds’s name may one day not solicit water cooler talk. And for Bonds, that may be the worst outcome of all.

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