I missed Barry's homer live because, frankly, I forgot. I was awake, even here on the East Coast, and I forgot. I got the CNN Breaking News e-mail and I immediately clicked over to the Nationals' local station (blackout so no ESPN2). They weren't even talking about it. I went to ESPN.com for the video.
That video is really disappointing and deflating. No fans chased him around the bags. No mob greeted him at home plate. The announcers even couldn't come up with something better than "Barry Bonds stands alone"? So does the cheese.
blahblahblahblabblah Bonds alone in a beautiful field
His son patiently awaited him at the plate and hugged him briefly. Barry then shed his offspring and pumped his arms in the air, alone. He then thrust his fist in the air, alone. It looked exactly like what I did in my front yard a thousand times. He might as well have mimicked Joe Carter rounding the bases, as I did in my front yard a thousand times with my neighbor as Mitch Williams. This did not feel like history. It felt like watching a man's singular pursuit come to a cold end in the arms of the only person who truly loved him, his son.
Can you sum up the clip better than that? "San Franciso loves Barry." "He needs to break the record at home." No, San Francisco cheered for Barry because they were happy to see history, but history seems only to be willing to tip the cap and move on. The next inning, you could see 50,000 faces contemplating whether it would be rude to leave early. It was like King Kong was the opening act, and the bearded woman was the main event. They saw what they came to see, and they felt underwhelmed once they saw what was to follow.
I said in early July that I forgive Barry Bonds for what he almost certainly did. I was comfortable with the inevitable, and yet it felt like I was watching a game show contestant win the big prize. I feel good for him, and I feel happy for him, but I don't feel good and happy for myself like I did when McGwire took Maris' record back in the Age of Innocence.
Imagine if I told you in 1990 that Cal Ripken showing up for work would be one of the most emotional moments in sports history, while Hank Aaron's record being broken would be a Play of the Week on SportsCenter. You can't because it was unimaginable. To hit 61 was something Kid Griffey could achieve with luck, perserverance, more luck and the beautiful swing. To hit 70 you needed a Sega controller in your hand. Now? Home run records mean something because we know they should, but we just can't muster the actual emotion.
(And don't think I'm not aware of the fact that Griffey hit 249 homers between 1996 and 2000, a homer per 11.7AB, but hit 340 homers the rest of his career (1989-1995, 2001 to present), or a homer per 17.7AB. I'm aware of it, but I don't know what, if anything, it means.)
Tonight it seemed that every fan in San Francisco realized that same concept all at once. It was a great big empty stadium with great big empty people. They all came to the stadium imagining the moment, and predicting how they would react to the moment, and wondering if they would cheer or cry or jump up and down. Then it came, and they all gasped at the swing, cheered as it flew, and then looked around to see how long they were supposed to maintain a hearty applause. spacer
For a record a career in the making, this record felt too much like the making of a career.