Is it a team that is going to keep one’s attention through June, July and the Dog Days of summer with the hope of late-night games in the autumn? Or is a team that is better left for the days when one simply needs to watch a game?
Here in Philadelphia it appears as if the Phillies will keep the collective interests piqued past Labor Day. Whether or not that results in games around Columbus Day or closer to Halloween is still to be determined.
But away from the everyday minutia and rhythms of the team trying to end a 14-year playoff drought is the historical. You know, the types of things that occur once in a lifetime or perhaps once every quarter century or so. The things that baseball fans as well as the larger fabric of the sports’ world deems significant enough to place one of those “Where were you when…” plaques on the memory.
They happen so rarely. In my lifetime I can remember Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s record for the most hits in September of 1985. Then there was Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s unbreakable consecutive games streak in September of 1995. I was too young to remember Hank Aaron slugging home run No. 715 in April of 1974, but there is a good chance I’ll be in front of a laptop, television or at the ballpark on the day Barry Bonds surges past Aaron with No. 756.
Having had the chance to watch Bonds come up through Arizona State on rebroadcasts of college games during the early days when ESPN was digging for programming to fill the spots between episodes of Vic’s Vacant Lot and Dick Vitale, to his blossoming to a perennial MVP in Pittsburgh, this should be a major event.
Should, of course, is the operative word.
Yet like a lot of folks who follow baseball closely and even the most casual of fans, Bonds’ ascent to become the all-time Home Run King is more of a nuisance than significant event. It’s more spectacle than a historical event. Just like most fans I don’t know if Bonds surpassing Aaron should make me angry or just join in with the chorus of yawns that seem to be echoing from every spot on the map outside of the seven square miles surrounded by reality called San Francisco.
Certainly the debate over the importance of Bonds’ taking over the home run record is better served in the hands (and brains) of smarter people than me. That much is evident. So too is the reaction that Bonds will receive when he arrives in Philadelphia with the Giants for the four-game series to be played at Citizens Bank Park this weekend. Certainly Bonds will hear louder boos than J.D. Drew ever heard in his travels to play against the Phillies.
Nevertheless, instead of summer where baseball fans should rally around a significant milestone in the long history of the game, they have decided to ignore its biggest villain. Warranted or not, Bonds has slipped through the sports’ fans consciousness until he shows up in their hometown. Then they come out to boo.
But then again, even the commissioner of baseball says he hasn’t decided whether or not he will be on hand to witness the crowning of the new home run king. That, in itself, is odd. Since Bud Selig is presiding over the game during the so-called steroid era, he should be there when its poster boy breaks one of the game’s most sacred records.
It’s also possible that Bonds will inch closer to the record, too. Standing at 746 as of this writing, computer projections indicate that the record will fall before Independence Day. But unlike the Framers who gathered in Philadelphia on that sweltering day in July of 1776 whose place in history was never in question, it doesn’t appear as if Bonds’ legacy will be liberated from the clutches of public doubt any time soon.