August 7, 2007

On number 755

I decided I do not really give a shit if Barry Bonds breaks Hamerin' Hank's record. The Hall of Fame and the record books do not need to add an asterisk either. You see, I will know. In my mind Bonds is not legit. I believe he is a cheater, a drug user. They showed a graphic the other day and when the mentioned that Sosa was fifth on the homerun list my son glanced up at the screen and said Sosa was a cheater too. The kids of today know. For the next generation the records of the last twenty years will be a joke.

Baseball is a game I love above any other. There is something perfect in the symmetry of the diamond. The straight white lines, the precise measurements...sixty feet six inches... The almost fanaticism about statistics. The game is a mathematician's dream. Yet the symmetry, the preciseness of the field are balanced by the absolute randomness of some of the rules -- three strikes, four balls. A foul is a strike unless it is the last one, unless you foul bunting on the third strike. You can run if the ball is dropped by the catcher, if there are less than two outs and first base is unoccupied. There are entire pages in the rule book on what constitutes a balk! Let us not even discuss the infield fly rule. I was once asked to give a quick lesson in baseball to some European colleagues over lunch. We were going to a Phillies game that evening. Forget it. It was too complicated. Baseball is one of the few sports without a game clock. It is the only sport where the defense has the ball. It is all too crazy. That is why it is the perfect game -- precise, geometric randomness. Chaos with rules. Baseball was never made for TV. The subtle movements of the players, the shifts in and out right and left based on the batter, the situation and the pitcher all come into play. TV can never highlight these subtleties.

Yet, for a chance at success, at wealth, at fame the athletes have cheated. I suspect the same is true for every sport. I watched a series on steroids a year or two ago. I think it was Bob Costas' show on HBO. He interviewed baseball stars from the past. Almost to a man they agreed that if steroids had been around in their day they would have considered using them. If it meant running faster, hitting better, playing longer, they would have done it. This drive to be the best, the "by whatever means possible" attitude is perhaps why they were enormously successful athletes to begin with. How many of us have that drive to win, to succeed?

What would you do for fame, for money, for glory? Can we really blame Barry?

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