Before the festivities kicked in there was complaining:
Hello, Giants. What time is the news conference for Barry Bonds this weekend? Oh. There's no news conference? OK. When is his media availability? Oh. There's no media availability? OK. #awkward— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) August 10, 2018
As the ceremonies kicked in, there was commentary:
I don’t really care that Barry Bonds did steroids. What bothers me is how often I witnessed him blow off kids who asked for his autograph. He has an uncanny way of looking right through people he doesn’t want to see.— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) August 12, 2018
In all the years of my Giants fandom, the only stories non-Giants fans would tell me about Bonds involved times he brushed them off or how he brushed people they knew. Beyond the PED use, he’s a notorious jerk, and people tended to stick with that, mainly because it was extraordinarily rare that we ever got to see a different side to him.
Baggarly mentioned in his Athletic piece yesterday:
But when asked how his on-field contributions might have helped generate the momentum to build the waterfront ballpark at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, Bonds allowed some of that old arrogance to spill out.
“The park thing means more to me than the number thing, because I built this park,” he said. “That’s all. When I walk in this ballpark, I know whose house this is. It’s our house as a unified city, but I know who did that. Willie (Mays) never played here. (Willie) McCovey didn’t play here. None of them played here. I played here.
“So I know who built that park. So when I walk in that park, yeah, I might have my chest out, my head’s a little big or whatever. Yeah, I did that.”
There’s something odd about a reporter waiting for his characterization of a person to present itself in the wild to fit a preconceived narrative, but there’s also something to be said about people being so consistent that they never let you down.
Barry Bonds is your smartphone, a delicious brisket, an electric car, or Tom Cruise: everything you like about the legend comes with painful truths. We’d love to just enjoy what we saw and not have our emotions jammed up by harsher realities because the moment we turn away from escapist entertainment our emotions get jammed up by harsher realities.
To the people who didn’t get to watch the bad baseball man hit the ball far and over the wall, I understand why your reaction to the name Barry Bonds is a grunting “ROIDS” or “CHEATER”. Please enjoy the emotional venting such performative outrage provides. To the people who just don’t want to get behind the bad baseball man because he’s a genuinely bad person, I totally get it, too. Life’s too short and nostalgia’s most insidious quality is how it gets us to lower our standards. So, yeah, change the channel when you hear his name.
Ultimately, the complicated legacy of Barry Bonds is more sad than complicated. Here was a guy with a lot of expectations placed on him who may have grown up in an emotionally tense home (Mays’ speech yesterday strongly suggested this) in part because of national visibility but became an all-time talent before our very eyes and was so consistent and indescribable that people wouldn’t stop chasing the high they (we) got from seeing him perform that ultimately we stopped thinking about or caring about the person and simply needed the talent machine to perform its talents.
And yet, it’s tough to sit there and say that just because we never saw another side of him didn’t mean there wasn’t.
How devoted is Fred Lewis? The former Giants outfielder PAID HIS OWN WAY, flying out of New Orleans, just to be a spectator during Barry Bonds' number-retirement weekend— Chris Haft/SF Giants (@sfgiantsbeat) August 11, 2018
I have no specific idea of what Fred Lewis’ relationship to Barry Bonds was but I have a decent idea of human nature and can conceive of only a few reasons why someone would do this for somebody else, and all of them involve a measure of love.
Most people who express their opinion of Barry Bonds probably don’t consider that emotion as a factor, not in their view of his life and not in their view of what some people might think of him — it’s a lot easier to rip on someone when you don’t think of them as a human being, and the easiest way to remove someone’s humanity is to remove love from the equation.
But we’re talking about a person loathed by his college teammates, estranged from most of his other teammates, estranged from even his father, cranky, irascible, physically abusive, cheater and a performance enhancer. Maybe we’ve given him too much leeway because of his ability to hit a baseball and not enough leeway to those who need to condemn him, but in the final analysis, Barry Bonds will only ever been known as a bad person who hit the most home runs in Major League Baseball history. That’s sad.
It’s also no wonder why he wouldn’t make himself available to the media whenever they need him to.