So said Barry Bonds in Washington DC last month, hours before crushing a home run in cavernous RFK stadium. The seven-time MVP was back in fighting form with his whipsaw bat and scabrous tongue after spending the season more hidden than Jimmy Hoffa. For those of us who love Barry Bonds, we do so precisely because he is so unlovable. He possesses more than intergalactic talent. He is one of a select few modern athletes with a fearless comfort telling uncomfortable truths. He is the Sean Penn of Major League Baseball, a Sean Penn in a Tom Hanks world.
David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel wrote, "When he faces New York media, Bonds will say people should be more concerned about 9/11. In Pittsburgh, he'll defer to the memory of the Johnstown Flood. By July, he'll be traveling with Cindy Sheehan. If only Barry's persecution complex allowed him to feel shame. He's reached a state of denial previously occupied only by O.J. and Michael Jackson fans." [Whitley's lumping Bonds in with an accused murderer and child molester is actually tame compared to some of what is on the blogosphere which seems to have been ghostwritten by David Duke.]
But with every barb as the season winded down, Bonds seemed to grow in strength. He led the San Francisco Giants to an unlikely playoff run, putting heat on the pitiable San Diego Padres in the National League West. In a fourteen game stretch, the seven time National League MVP rolled out of bed to hit five home runs with a monstrous .670 slugging percentage. All on knees a team doctor described as "cartilage on bone."
Bonds's success was both startling and satisfying. Startling because you just aren't supposed to slug .670 after not playing a whole year and being on the wrong side of 40. Satisfying because he looked terrific doing it. Many a dime-store pundit had gleefully predicted Barry would be a physical shadow of his former self. Since steroid testing kicked into full gear, several players came into spring looking like they spent the winter in a sauna. Bonds, they crowed, would show up resembling Jimmy "J.J." Walker. Instead he came back even bigger, a happy roll of proud middle-aged flab coating his muscled frame. Bonds looks like he has spent this off-season spending far more time with olive oil than the flaxseed variety. He was smiling and talked openly about chasing down Babe Ruth's magic 714 home runs early next season.
The icing on the cake was the comment from Dave Marin, the spokesman for House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, who is leading the congressional steroid media circus. Marin heard Bonds' comments and said, "It's the type of response folks on Capitol Hill hear all the time from those who wish attention was focused on other things," Actually, Mr. Marin, it's the type of response that is desperately needed. It's frankly criminal that your attention is not "on other things." A government able to destroy and occupy other countries but unable or unwilling to repair levees should probably get their heads out of the damn sports pages. If there is any justice in the world. we will see George W. Bush under the congressional hot lights long before Barry Bonds.
Dave Zirin's new book "What's My Name Fool, Sports and Resistance in the United States (Harmarket Books is now available. Email the author back at firstname.lastname@example.org.