Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Whether He Likes It Or Not

Hank Aaron has recently said that he'll be somewhere playing golf when Barry Bonds breaks the home run record. But Hank Aaron will be present for the milestone whether he likes it or not - when the jumbotron announces the breaking of the record, on the chyron when they show the highlights on TV, and on the minds of some people who will be distressed if Hank Aaron doesn't show up in person to witness the milestone.

Via The Feed, Paul Finebaum, a columnist in Aaron's hometown newspaper The Press-Resiter, opines that Hank Aaron ironically is demonstrating the kind of surliness that Barry Bonds is pilloried for.

However, from this standpoint, as vile as he may appear at times, Bonds is showing no less class than Hammerin' Hank, who just can't let bygones be bygones. He continues to wear his bitterness on his sleeve after all these years and will likely sulk all the way to the grave.

I feel sorry for Hank Aaron. Really.

He could actually do something constructive here instead of continuing to shake the dust and cobwebs off the hate mail he has saved from 33 years ago. But no, Aaron continues to play the same grumpy and surly role now as he did during his prime. Some things never change.

I'm not old enough to have observed first hand how Hank Aaron carried himself during his playing days. But right now, he does come off as a little bit of a hater. I agree with Finebaum that Aaron has the opportunity to do something constructive with the moment. Personally, I would settle for anything. He could use the moment to advance his own fame. He could use it as a platform to dissuade kids coming up from using PEDs. He could show solidarity with the players bemoaning the decline of Black Americans in the major leagues by remind America that it has Black baseball hereoes. He could simply be present just to bring more attention to the milestone and enhance the marketability of the game, as he has and continues to earn millions from his baseball legacy.

There are certainly those who believe Hank Aaron walks on water. But he is just a human being, just like Barry Bonds. And while Barry may never completely rehabilitate his image no matter what he does or doesn't do, Hank's image is currently pristine. But his refusal to participate in the home run milestone will undermine his legacy for a certain group of people. He will become just a mortal, not a hero on a pedastal. Still a baseball great, buy maybe also just another grumpy old man.

Paul Finebaum also did a radio interview on Atlanta's 790 the Zone. What was notable about the interview was the confrontational tone of it. The Atlanta hosts were absolutely incensed that Finebaum declared Hank Aaron to be less than perfect. Well, Finebaum is only saying what some people are going to realize on their hown. Some people are going to think that Hank is bitter, jealous and/or surly for not publicly recognizing the new home run king. Ignoring the issue is not being the bigger man. It just makes him passive. Aaron wouldn't cease to be seen as a "big" person for supporting Bonds. He just doesn't want to.

As the moment grows closer, Hank Aaron's name and his refusal to witness the breaking of the record will increasingly be interjected into media conversation. Whenever a living person's record is broken, it's always a big deal. By not getting in front of it, Aaron is basically giving the media license to stir the pot. The media thrives off controversy and they will create it, whether it exists or not.

The conversation about Aaron's "snub" of Bonds will get louder. Barry Bond's brother, Bobby, Jr., has already increased the volume by publicly expressed his disappointment in Hank Aaron. Bobby Bonds, Jr. is disappointed in Bud Selig for not committing to be present for the breaking of the record, but is also saddened by Hank Aaron.

"Especially Hank Aaron," Bonds Jr., whose late father played in the same era as Aaron, told the newspaper. "Hank Aaron does not even want to support Barry. Being a black man going through what he went through in the past and not supporting my brother, it kind of makes me look at him like, 'Are you serious, brother? Are you serious?' "

"Cut the steroids out, just look at my brother as a human being. He stole bases, he ran, he caught the ball," Bonds Jr. told the Star-Ledger. "It's so hard to justify what's going on with baseball and how they're treating him."

Like Barry or not, Hank can relate to being the villain. He's been there, done that. It's not fair that Hank Aaron should have to take a position on Barry, but it's still disappointing that he won't. But as long as Hank doesn't mind coming a notch down off that pedastal, it's his choice.


DP said...

While I still encourage a thorough pimpslapping of Paul Finebaum, I ALSO support this post.

I think there is a generation of Black folk incapable of speaking ill of certain people.

That doesnt mean they dont need checking, though.

Good Post.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

While I'd agree that Aaron comes off as something of a "hater," I'd like to contest your notion that Aaron not taking a position is disappointing. I think it's a measured, conscious response intended to keep himself out of the controversy that would be kicked up were he at the stadium. There's almost no way Aaron could go and not deal with the media.

With the media situation as loaded and negative toward Bonds as it is, Aaron would be in a no-win situation. It's a lot to ask of a retired, elderly person to take a stand on national television that's going not only damage either relationships or reputations, but also be parsed and re-parsed by the 24/7 sports news cycle.

Choosing to let things play out as they will without sticking himself in the middle of it seems, to me, both reasonable and understandable. Taking a stand might be an interesting - and impressive - course of action, but not a necessary one in this case.

P said...

I am in concurrence with the Brooklyn Boy and DP. I think you are a WONDERFUL writer, by the way (that's a sidebar)

But anyway, you have this person (Aaron), who was actually put in a very tumultous position himself, in a very racially sensitive time breaking the record of what many believe was the cat's meow of Baseball - The Babe. And, now, in the middle of what is equally the most coveted recorded in Baseball, coupled WITH the most scandalized incident IN baseball, Henry is stuck between a rock, and a hard place.

And I think I would stand right in the middle.

I don't believe that he sounds more like a hater than he does more like someone who, literally, as Brooklyn Boy says, doesn't know quite WHAT TO DO in this situation.

Brendt said...

Bonds has gone on 19-day and 15-day droughts this season without a home run.

But a 73-year-old man not wanting to put his life on hold for 3 weeks and schlep all over the country like a Deadhead makes Aaron a bitter, surly hater. Yeah, right.