A lovely post on Ed Gilbreath's Reconciliation Blues reminds me why his excellent blog must roll in the list on your left. (Meet his About page, and his passion to reconcile the races in Christ)
Ed says to give Barry Bonds a break as he approaches breaking Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, and whatever judgments—legal, historical and moral— awaits him afterward. Doping, of course is wrong, even though everyone, it seems, from Mark McGuire in his record breaking '98 season to every other rider in this year's Tour de France, has been doing it.When the same scandal stalking Bonds caught up with McGuire in 2005, the burden of the red-headed sluggers presumed but unproven guilt brought him to the verge of tears on national television.
But, of course, no one thinks McGuire is a discredit to his race. What I like about Gilbreath is how his careful prose peels back the obvious layers of the racial onion to get to a deeper truth. He points out this hilarious Chris Rock clip on Letterman's couch and its point:if Bond's feat deserves a little asterisk because of steroids, what does the record of almost every white baseball god (most of them my beloved Yankees) deserve because their records were set with NO black competition?
"What's the bigger unfair advantage," says Rock,"a little pill...or racism?"
But, in Leave Barry Bonds Alone? my man Ed goes deeper. Because a Chicago columnist forced him to consider that the legendary deeds of Negro league icons like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and 'Cool Papa' Bell were also incomplete without white competition.
(BTB-womanizing, drinking, gambling and much worse were not unknown among the Negro League players either.)
Think about it: it all comes together in Ty Cobb, an incredibly dirty AND racist player who (until finally outed in the film Field of Dreams) long epitomized the best tradition of fierce competition in sport.
What did we loose, as a country, for not having the collision between John Henry Lloyd covering 2nd and Ty Cobb—spikes flying—trying to break up a double-play in 1915? That year Cobb set the 'white' stolen base record that would not be broken until 1962, 14 years after black men like Maury Wills were allowed to take the same field. It was also just before black men would take the European fields of combat in WWI, and return with a new thirst for dignity and justice in America. What did we miss not having those confrontations also play out on the diamonds of the national pastime?
I agree with Ed. Leave Bonds and Michael Vick and the next brother who, in an age of media scrutiny that Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth could never comprehend, much less face, reveals the ugly truth: the only difference between sports stars and the rest of us is they have way more resources to accomplish the best and especially the worst our human nature holds.
Only the white ones never have to represent their race.