Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Booooooo! Barry Bonds Rolls Into Los Angeles

If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one there, does it make a sound?

If Barry Bonds breaks Henry Aaron's home run record at Dodger Stadium, and 56,000 people are there, booing their guts out...

Tonight, in the middle of Chavez Ravine, San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds will face Brad Penny of the Dodgers in the top of the first inning of a game that could go down in history - not just baseball history, HISTORY - as a defining moment for the sport, for Los Angeles as a city, and for the United States for that matter. More than the story of how a cheater (allegedly) broke the most hallowed record in a game that measures it's history by the numbers, tonight marks the moment when a game's fans, L.A., and the U.S. will show how it feels.

How it feels about Bonds.

How it feels about the game.

How it feels about itself.

What will those 56,000 people do if Barry Bonds makes history in their back yard?

For the Dodgers as an organization, no special ceremony is planned in the eventuality that Bonds hits number 755 to tie Aaron, or 756 to pass him over the next three games in L.A. Why should they? The Dodgers and the Giants have been the bitterest of rivals for more than a century. There will never be any love lost between the two. Major League Baseball has no official plan to make with the speeches yet either. Only a possibility of that exists should Bonds break the record later on in San Francisco, and then only a faint "maybe" for even having Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig make an appearance at an event neither he, nor Selig's long-time friend Hank Aaron desire to be "photo-opped" at.

This leaves only Bonds' teammates and the ticket-holders to determine how this moment in history will be remembered.

Los Angeles has had it's share of defining moments before the watching world. 1968, and the Watts Riots. The beating of truck driver Reginald Denny and the subsequent L.A. Riots in the wake of the Rodney King verdict in 1992. Even what, by comparison, seems meaningless - the burning of an LAPD cruiser after the Lakers' first championship of the Shaq/Kobe era - may become lost in the memory of tonight, of Wednesday, or Thursday, depending what 56,000 people do if...

Does America hate Barry Bonds? Pretty much. And for nothing more than a perception that he has somehow tainted the game that he loves by taking unfair advantage of science in his pursuit of immortality. That, and the belief that Bonds is a class-a a-hole when it comes to his dealings with media, team mates, fans, ex-wives, mistresses, best friends, and personal trainers spending years in prison because they refused to testify about Bonds' alleged steroid use before a Grand Jury.

Is the hatred of Bonds, as some suggest, racial in it's motivation? Hard to say. In part? Probably. Exclusively? Doubtful. Will the fans' reaction to the events of the next few days have more to do with the former than the latter? Definitely.

But how, if the place goes grease fire and the worst of all possible scenarios plays itself out before millions on world-wide TV, will it be recalled by future generations when they look back with wonder?

Los Angeles, what will you do?

Will you make a martyr out of a man who is worthy, neither of your hatred or your worship, simply by how you react to the way a ball flies through the air in your town? Can you be trusted to boo without having to be strip-searched on your way into the ballpark?

How will the world remember?

Game time is at 7:10.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday