Barry Bonds was known as a self-centered athlete while he played college baseball at Arizona State University.
Today he is a big-leaguer with the San Francisco Giants. And as his muscles and neck circumference have grown in recent years, so also has his ego.
In the face of allegations that his fabulous ability to hit baseballs over outfield fences — an ability that won him the single-season home-run record — has been enhanced by steroids, Bonds still finds everything to be about himself.
His rambling tirade Tuesday at a news conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., — in which he unjustifiably suggested that part of the criticism of him stems from his being black — showed the arrogance of a man who cannot or will not see the seriousness of the steroids issue and how baseball’s very future is tied to it.
Last month’s supposedly get-tough revisions to the game’s steroid policy were at least a start, but the fact that they remain far too lenient means baseball still falls far short of truly keeping these chemicals out of the game. The policies haven’t impressed many fans, either.
Bonds said he believes race is a factor in the allegations against him, which have emerged as he is chasing Babe Ruth’s career home-run total. The notion is absurd. Several white players — notably Jason Giambi and Mark McGwire — also have been accused of using steroids. And while Bonds (700 home runs) is just behind Ruth (714) on the career list, both are behind the holder of the actual record, Henry Aaron, a black man who hit 755.
Bonds is certainly entitled to defend himself against the accusations against him — to deny, as he has, that he has used steroids. But he should realize that his and other athletes’ entries in the record books — and fans’ support for the very game itself — could be threatened by baseball’s refusal to respond more vigorously regarding steroid use.
Bonds should be using his fame as a platform to call for further toughening of baseball’s steroid policies, rather than waste time playing an eight-figure-salaried victim — which he isn’t.
And to think that in 2002 his alma mater, Arizona State, briefly considered renaming Rio Salado Parkway near its baseball stadium “Barry Bonds Boulevard.” It’s a safe bet that university officials are wiping their brows with relief today that they didn’t.