Barry Bonds in an Archetype for Our Times

I have been trying to get my head around the national reaction to Barry Bonds and his pursuit of Hank Aaron’s home run record.

The national mood towards Bonds's march to immortality is decidedly mixed. While San Francisco fans are deservedly thrilled, the rest of the country is ambivalent, if not downright hostile.

Bonds’s achievement is worth celebrating, whether you like him or not. To hit as many home runs as he has, for as long as he has, is a big deal.

Some will say that racism is involved with the national feeling towards and about Barry Bonds. There may be some of that. But I remember the national mood when Hank Aaron broke Babe’s record, and this is different. Back then you had real racism, mixed in with real elation by folks of all races. Excitement was in the air. Today, you have boredom mixed in with disgust.

He’s a cheater, some say. But I doubt Bonds has cheated any more than many other players. He has great disdain for the media, and maybe that has hurt his cause. But people aren’t really talking about Bonds around the water cooler today. Why is that? After all, baseball is as popular as it ever was.

I have a theory. We have become a truly democratic nation. We don’t celebrate larger-than-life characters anymore. We resent them. And we attack them.

We celebrate people by mocking them. Who are our celebrities today? Lindsay Lohan. Britney Spears. Paris Hilton. These bad girls don’t deserve celebrity. In the old days, they would have deserved a spanking. Today, they need a time-out in the corner.

Our political leaders are held up to equal ridicule. Almost every single candidate for president has significant flaws that are pointed out time and again by their critics, and sometime by their families. And of course, the president and the vice president (and attorney general, etc.) are vilified ad nauseum.

It gets no better when you talk about the corporate boardroom. Almost every single CEO is seen not as an entrepreneur, but as a potential crook — and a greedy one at that.

The only institution that has held up in this era of vilification is the military. But that is only because it is politically correct to salute the men in uniform while condemning their mission in Iraq.

In the age of the anti-hero, Barry Bonds is the anti-hero’s anti-hero. His flaws mask his achievement. His surliness hides his talent. And his attitude hides the history he will make sometime this week.

Barry Bonds: Archetype for our times.

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