BOB MOON: Things got pretty ugly at the ballpark last year.
Barry Bonds was ridiculed and harassed by fans all season long. They were unhappy over a new book detailing alleged steroid abuse by the Giants’ heavy-hitter. Now, an updated paperback version of “Game of Shadows” is being released.
But as spring training gets underway, it seems all anyone can talk about now is, will Bonds break baseball’s most coveted record? Joining us is our regular sports commentator Diana Nyad. Welcome.
DIANA NYAD: Thank you very much, Bob.
MOON: So, Diana: Barry Bonds could conceivably pass Hank Aaron’s all-time homerun record, but there’s still this cloud of suspicion hanging over him. How is this gonna play out in terms of ticket sales, in terms of TV audiences for the season? Or do fans really care about this?
NYAD: As far as I can tell, so far, they don’t care. And even last season, yeah: we came off those congressional hearings where Mark Mcguire sat stone-silent, and everybody said, “Well then, lookit — the guy’s gotta be guilty.” Rafael Palmeiro, which we found out later just lied through his teeth. You know, he had taken steroids, and he got tears in his eyes and said “I have never, ever.” And did people care? Record attendance, record television ratings. And now, you know, Bonds is getting some death threats this week. And . . . you know, is that because that record means so much to them they don’t want to see it fall? I mean Hank Aaron got death threats when he was about to break Babe Ruth’s record. So is it just that? Or do they feel he cheated and he shouldn’t get that record? My feeling is there’s a forgiveness happening now at this point, too, saying probably a lot of guys — as they have in football and other sports — have experimented. And now they’re beginning [to] police the sport better, including Barry Bonds. And look at the guy. He still knocks the heck out of the ball. So we believe he’s the real deal.
MOON: Well if fans are forgiving, why does the baseball commissioner seem reluctant to say whether he’s gonna be there when Barry Bonds breaks the record?
NYAD: I think that Bud Selig is . . . he’s between a rock and a hard place. I mean what would you do, for the . . . if you’re the commissioner? Do you go there the night he hits the big homerun and passes Aaron, and you stand up and you wave to the fans? And you go down and you hug Bonds and get the photo-opp? Or do you stay away, let the fans who want to celebrate celebrate, and just let it seep into the back of the sports pages instead of the giant bold-face front of the pages?
MOON: Well, that sounds like a tough business decision, if nothing else, to me. So what about baseball in particular makes this such an issue? It doesn’t seem to be that big of an issue in other sports.
NYAD: You know why? I think, Bob, is because baseball has come very late to it. I mean we were talking about steroids in the NFL in the 1950s. So we’re talking about 50 years later. How could one of our three big sports be this far behind . . . you know, other sports? I mean, look at the NFL this year. Shawne Merriman — linebacker, San Diego Chargers — caught doing steroids. And he’s not one who comes and says “Oh, you know, I think somebody just slipped me a mickey into my morning hot chocolate.” He says, “I did ’em!” He paid the price, he sat out a few games. He comes back and the fans vote him one of the two top defensive players in the year. We never thought of baseball players as being big and bulky. The bodies have changed radically. They have come late to experimenting with drugs. They’ve come late to policing drugs. And now, they’re coming a little bit late, but I think it’s happening — even as early as this year, 2007 — to them saying, “Let’s get it clean, but who cares if you guys popped a few pills?
MOON: Gonna be interesting to see how this all plays out. Our sports commentator, Diana Nyad. Thank you.
NYAD: I appreciate it, Bob.
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