i see all these heroes
with feet of clay
whose mighty ships
have sprung a leak
and i want you to tell me
just what do you believe in now?
-- don henley
soon, probably in the next month or so, henry aaron will be second on the all-time major league home run list.
he'll be passed by a player who, by many accounts, used steroids to amass big home run totals.
hank aaron never was an imposing physical presence. at six feet tall and 180 pounds, he derived his power from a fluid swing and a big heart. the other guy, in contrast, went from a normal-looking athlete to a massively muscled freak of nature. he did this late in his career, when most players are on the statistical and physical downslope.
i remember when aaron was pursuing babe ruth for the home run record. as he closed the gap, aaron was dogged by racist taunts, hate mail and death threats. but he maintained his poise and his focus, setting a standard that the haters didn't have the IQ to understand, let alone emulate. to this day, aaron is an embassador for the game of baseball, an example too infrequently followed by current professional athletes. or anyone else.
the other guy is the poster child for everything wrong with professional sports (and often college sports as well). spoiled, arrogant, hostile, and a cheater. quite a combination. borderline criminal. maybe even over-the-line, pending an investigation of steroid use, trafficking, and alleged perjury.
not to mention the spectacle of his huge, misshapen, gelatinous head. something about that should be criminal, too.
the player and his apologists attribute animus toward him to racism. quite a claim since both he and aaron are black. also interesting is how few current players speak out against him.
the loaded question usually goes something like, "soandso is about to break hank aaron's all-time home run record. how do you feel about that?"
the answer, typically, is a variation of "great! very exciting! he's still a great hitter, and has hit a lot of home runs, which i think is great!"
it's nauseating. someone needs to explain to me why breaking a record this way is anything but a desecration. and why these players are so okay with that.
i shouldn't care, i know. in the big scheme of things, a sporting record is inconsequential. but there's still enough boy in me, enough idealism, to get worked up about it.
all these years later, i have nothing but admiration (and a little bit of nostalgic awe) for henry aaron. he respected the game, and accomplished something remarkable within the boundaries of fairness.
this other guy? none of the above. no respect for the game, its history, its fans, or the ideals they represent.
his 756 will be a record without honor. instead of cheers he should hear silence.
soon, probably in a month or so, someone on espn will exclaim that there's a new home run king. at my house, that's when the tv goes off.