We often place public figures of note into categories of hero and villain, even if we're unaware of it.
When we like a musician, sports star, or political figure; we tend to look the other way when they do something that rubs us the wrong way. Conversely, we bellow out about their greatness when they do something good. For an example, no one better describes this internal dilemma within me than Michael Jordan. Being from the suburbs of Chicago, Michael was God. And yet, as I get older, I find myself ruffled by who Michael Jordan is a person. Quite frankly, I don't like him very much. Now, obviously, I don't know him. But I do know that I thought his Hall of Fame induction speech was disgusting. It made me question whether I loved Michael simply because he was incredible at shooting a small ball through a cylindrical hoop. If that was the case, who cares. It's just a game.
The point is, it's much easier to love someone blindly or loathe them unreasonably than it is to look deeper into the makeup of someone and accept all the flaws and beauty that person has. We are drawn to conclusions because it represents our opinion and where we stand on certain issues of importance. But like ourselves, it's never that easy with any human being, including superstars.
Barry Bonds has been called every name in the book. To say he is maligned is an understatement. There are so many stories out there about Bonds that it's difficult to grasp where the truth begins. However, one thing is abundantly clear: Bonds isn't particularly liked. It's not just the 'ahem' alleged steroid use, it's often Bonds himself. He's been called grumpy, misanthropic, and surly. And those are the nice adjectives.
He is hated by many baseball fans and sportwriters across the country.
Personally, I've always had an indifference to Bonds. I certainly do not hate the man. But I don't exactly like him either. He's just always kind of been there. Sometimes I'd read about the behavior of Bonds toward his teammates and I'd roll my eyes. I didn't get too worked up over it because in Chicago, we had our own egomaniac slugger to deal with (Sammy Sosa). Certainly, Bonds' had some personal issues I bristled at. That being said, there were times I thought Bonds had a candor that was unique. When he did speak to the press, his emotions brimmed to the surface without the usual baseball Bull Durham-esque double-talk. I found those times, when Barry was most human, to be most intriguing of all. Sometimes he acted like a baby, pointing fingers at everyone but himself. Other times he seemed right on point with his assessment of the media and how their opinion controls so much of one's public perception. When Barry was vulnerable, he seemed human. For a man who hit an insane amount of home runs, acting anything but super-human was a revelation.
Despite this, at the end of the day, I didn't think much of Barry Bonds. Put it this way, I certainly wasn't cheering for the guy.
But yesterday I read a story that absolutely baffled me. It totally and utterly made me once again re-think my natural tendencies to 'like' or 'unlike' an athlete with such black and white opposing lines.
By now, you've heard the tragic story of the beating of Bryan Stow. A Giants fan that attended opening day at Dodger stadium this season, Stow was viciously attacked outside the stadium by two Dodger fans. Stow remains in a coma to this day. It was a senseless beating that leaves you pondering questions of who we are as a society that this happens over a silly baseball game.
Because, as much as I love baseball, it is a game. It's meant to be fun. A distraction to those of us plugging away in the real world. Time spent at a ball field can erase all the problems in our minds, if only for a few hours.
Which brings me back to Bonds. Barry Bonds, the man many said had no heart, has decided to send Bryan Stow's two children to college. Barry Bonds, the linchpin for an entire steroid-infested generation, is doing so out of the kindness of his heart. Still cynical? If I've read the story correctly, Bonds made this pledge several weeks ago. He did it quietly and privately to the Stow family. So if you're thinking Bonds did it for image-building, think again. The story came out through the Stow's lawyers. Not Barry's.
Even if you still thought Bonds had some ulterior motive, it doesn't matter.
Bryan Stow's kids are going to college. And that wouldn't happen without the generosity of Barry Bonds.
I was genuinely moved upon hearing of Bonds' gift. In a sports world littered with scandal, including his own, Bonds somehow managed to show everyone who he was cannot be measured in a simple sentence. These are real people, not facebook status updates we can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to at will. It's far more complicated than that.
Bonds isn't alone. Just this week, the hero-to-many Lace Armstrong was hit with another round of steroid allegations. The amount of people claiming Armstrong used is now at least as deep as Barry's. And if it came out that Armstrong did use something, would that make what he did for cancer any less relevant? Would it diminish who he was in your eyes? You want to like Lance Armstrong. You want to not like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Is it that easy to compartmentalize their actions and deem them a hero or villain?
I don't know. All I know is, it's not an easy answer.
Barry Bonds hit 762 home runs.
In my opinion, not one of those home runs mattered compared to helping Bryan Stow's kids.
Yes, it's just one single act of kindness. It certainly doesn't erase any damage Bonds did to others through his personal actions. But it does make me think that maybe there's a lot more to Barry Bonds then we know.
Either way, if he strolled up to the plate right now, I'd cheer him.
Well done Barry. Well done.