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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
If Bonds leaves early, can't fans?

By Tim Keown
Page 2

There are so many tangents to the Barry Bonds spectacle, and every single one of them is more interesting than the actual event.

One of the tangents concerns fans, and how they should behave. More to the point, this tangent concerns some members of the media deciding how fans should behave and then spouting their advice over the airwaves.

In a matter that is, for some reason, big among the sports-talk hosts in the Bay Area, fans are leaving AT&T Park in pretty big numbers after Bonds takes his final at-bat.

This is happening, and it is happening mostly in games that are decided by the time Bonds leaves the game. But to hear some guys tell it, this is an egregious breach of ballpark etiquette. The early departers are horrible, both gutless and heartless, not worthy of the team nor the man for whom they root.

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds takes his bats and leaves the dugout after his last at-bat.
This argument dismisses one salient fact: Bonds himself leaves after his final at-bat.

The Giants made a huge ninth-inning comeback a couple of Saturdays ago, and when they ran onto the field to celebrate, Bonds was either in the clubhouse or on his way home. Either way, he wasn't out there. And wherever he was, it was a lot closer to where those early departing fans were than it was to his teammates.

This is fine, of course, provided Felipe Alou and the Giants' management don't have a rule against Bonds leaving the park before the game ends.

(That, by the way, was a joke. Too subtle, perhaps, but a joke nonetheless. Bonds recognizes the rules of no man.)

But the media folks who have established themselves as the purveyors of fan decorum are unable to differentiate between those who pay and those who are paid. Bonds is being paid $20 million to play on this team, and if he doesn't have to stick it out to the bitter end, why does the guy who paid money to watch it? The fans, to prove themselves, apparently have to sit there and wait for Jose Vizcaino to hit a 22-hopper to short to end the game. Otherwise they're not true fans.

It's a strange perspective. Here's a little unsolicited advice for the advisors, regardless of city or issue: Unless you're telling them not to throw things -- although the syringe thing, in retrospect, was kind of funny -- don't make it your business to tell paying fans what to do with their time.

One exception, other than the throwing-things exception: Feel free to tell them not to swear in front of little kids. You get a pass on that one.

This Week's List
After attending a Phillies game in Philadelphia on Friday and a Giants game in San Francisco on Monday, here's a quick look at how the fans differ: (1) In Philadelphia, after the Phillies fell behind the Red Sox 3-0 early, a guy got up and started an "E-A-G-L-E-S" chant, and most people joined him; (2) In Philadelphia, the fans were seriously livid -- I mean red-faced, spittle-down-the-chin livid -- when a guy showed up in the right-field seats wearing a No. 81 Terrell Owens Cowboys jersey; (3) In San Francisco, a whole bunch of people got up and left after Barry Bonds walked in the eighth inning.

Quote from a grown man who should make all of us wonder what kind of world we're going to leave for our grandchildren: Denying that he bit Jacques Jones in Saturday's White Sox-Cubs fight, White Sox third-base coach Joey Cora told the Chicago Tribune, "No, I didn't bite anyone -- in this fight."

Because, you see: Cora did bite someone in a fight against the Padres.

Nostalgia corner: Remember when the Reds-Tigers interleague series was a joke?

Somewhere there's a Cubs fan writing a script for a horror film called "The Summer of the Avenging Catcher": If losing is going to cause Michael Barrett to take on all comers -- Dave Roberts, A.J. Pierzynski -- he should think about becoming something other than a Cub.

At least Michael would have worn a suit: Kobe, during halftime of a game featuring LeBron, was reduced to defending himself against the slings of Charles Barkley while wearing an Andre 3000 vest-and-tie ensemble.

The year's worst moment in television: Reporters jostling for position and fighting over questions to a 7-year-old boy whose parents just made him swim from Alcatraz to shore.

What the kid said, paraphrased: "Yeah, it was hard … the whole thing was hard. … I don't know. … I don't know. … I don't know."

And finally, what he should have said: "I'm cold and I'm hungry, but since I'm only 7 I'm going to have to do the interviews my mom has lined up and drink my morning wheat grass. Does anyone here know the rules about becoming an emancipated minor?"

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Page 2 here.