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We won. The media. We destroyed Barry Bonds, drove him crazy, turned the most disciplined and feared hitter the game has ever known into a fence-swinging hack, drained all the excitement out of his 714 home runs.
Media 1, Bonds 0.
Bonds deserved this, we believe. Beyond allegations of steroid use, Bonds was Barry, Barry Bad to us. When he chose to interact with the media, he was condescending and rude. He thought he didn't need us. He thought he swung the biggest stick in the park. He was Barry mistaken.
We still carry the hammer, and we used it to smash Bonds into a sports pariah. Bonds provided the colors and the brush, and we painted him as a weapon of mass destruction, a threat to truth, justice and the American way.
ESPN announced this week that it is cutting back on the number of episodes of Bonds' TV show, "Bonds on Bonds." Networks pull back when viewers do. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a week filling in for Jim Rome on his TV show, "Rome is Burning." The ratings were solid all but one day -- the day programming was interrupted by live coverage of Bonds' pursuit of 714 immediately before the show and halfway through it.
If sports fans ever posed for Playboy, Barry Bonds would be listed as a turnoff. Yeah, chicks may dig the long balls, but not when the media have convinced them the homers have been infected by a hazardous STD (steroid transmitted dinger).
Bonds tied Babe Ruth last weekend, and all anyone wanted to talk about was Barbaro's breaking his ankle at the Preakness. Horse racing, a sport that has been dead for two decades, overshadowed America's pastime. Concern for an animal that is souped-up on anything and everything took precedent over the athletic achievement of a human being who is allegedly souped-up on anything and everything .
Let me tell you how bad it's gotten for Bonds. People would rather see Johnny Cakes join the cast of "Rescue Me" than see Bonds impersonate Paula Abdul on "American Idol."
Come on, it's over. The media won. Barry Bonds is a shell of himself. You can't even love to hate him anymore. The owner of the Giants, Peter Magowan, has all but said he's ready to wash his hands of Barry after this season. Barry limps in the outfield. He hits a home run once every two weeks. He's no threat to Hank Aaron's record. And Barry has been reduced to pretending that he reveres Babe Ruth and the Babe's all-white accomplishments.
Honestly, I feel sorry for Barry Bonds. That's no real surprise. I've been defending Barry Bonds for years. His arrogance never bothered me. His alleged use of steroids never struck me as all that unethical when you recognize the obvious fact that pitchers are more likely to use steroids than position players and the world's most powerful and popular sports league -- the NFL -- relies heavily on athletes who mainline performance enhancers in high school and college and dabble when they need to in the pros.
But my sympathy for Bonds now runs much deeper, now that he's pitifully limping toward the finish line. He strikes me the way a drunk at a bar does. Bonds does not know when to say when.
This week I've been rereading Sam "The Bull" Gravano's book "Underboss." For a brief time, before he became a snitch for the feds, The Bull was mobster John Gotti's right-hand man. Bonds reminds me of Gotti, a man too full of himself to listen to common sense.
Why did Bonds pick a fight with the media? Ignore us. Never bicker.
And I give Mark McGwire credit for this. He saw which way the wind was blowing on this steroid hypocrisy, walked away from the game and told a group of congressional clowns that he had no interest in discussing his indiscretions.
Bonds never should've played this season. It was one last selfish act. He's made more money than he could ever spend. His 41-year-old body can't handle the grind. He's putting his wife and children through hell.
All over a silly record? We're not talking about someone risking everything over a noble cause, something that will benefit mankind. We're talking about a home run standard that had virtually no integrity when the Sultan of Segregation held it and lost its significance when Hank Aaron surpassed it.
Had the Sultan of Steroids stepped away before this season and not caught the Elvis Presley of sports, there's a chance the media would've let their steroid crusade go, there's a chance Bud Selig would've never announced his public relations ploy (steroids investigation).
By playing, and insisting on catching and passing Ruth, Bonds escalated his war with the media.
It's going to cost him dearly. He could do time for perjury. Selig might wipe away all of his numbers. I don't envision Bonds ever making the Hall of Fame.
Worse, by forever playing the role of the bully and the villain with the media, Bonds has damaged his name -- a name his children carry. There's no amount of money that can repair the harm a parent causes a child when an unnecessary burden gets passed from generation to generation.
I'm sure Bonds blames the media for that. But, given his father's acrimonious relationship with the media, Barry should've known the consequences of his actions better than anyone.
Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sound off to Page 2 here.