The Silent Indictment

Cup'pa JoeI read no new Harry Potter this past weekend and instead familiarized myself with details about likely indictments in baseball (Barry Bonds) and basketball (NBA referee Tom Donaghy). In Saturday’s Washington Post, Dave Sheinen had a fascinating account of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s startling indifference to Bonds’ inevitable home run record. The commissioner — the chief executive officer of the sport — is apparently uncertain if he’ll be in the ballpark this week or next when Bonds passes Hank Aaron’s home run record.
Necessarily, and instantly, I drew a parallel between Bonds’ record pursuit and Wayne Gretzky’s with Gordie Howe’s most goals scored one more than a decade ago. This summer, neither Selig nor Hank Aaron have much stomach to be seated near home plate when Bonds rounds the bases for the 756th time. I call it The Silent Indictment.
In March 1994, as Gretzky honed in on his 802nd goal, both Commissioner Bettman and Gordie himself followed #99 in the L.A. Kings’ games. Gretzky being Gretzky, he didn’t have them travel all that long, scoring the record goal precisely where he should have, in Edmonton. It was the among the mightiest of individual records that was about to fall, much as Aaron’s is in baseball, and Bettman and hockey royalty accorded it its full weight in commemoration.
It’s a staggering juxtaposition. The most significant testimonial to the record-breaking moment on the diamond this summer will likely be offered by the game’s TV play-by-play voice. And even there, you wonder what manner of reaction he’ll offer. Elation? Relief? Contempt?
There’s a queer and almost perverse juxtaposition, too, in place when comparing the physical makeup of the athletes who pursued these hallowed records in different sports. Wayne, who likely never lifted a weight in his life, let alone entertained thoughts of injecting horse hormones into his bloodstream, surpassed the brawny shouldered, iron-elbowed, and menacing demeanor and determination of hockey’s greatest power forward, Mr. Hockey. There could be no second-guessing about the legitimacy of Wayne’s virtuosity or his rightful claim to the record. Aaron was the Wayne of his era, diminutive in physical stature but a world-altering presence with his talent. Today he’s pursued by a fraud, a freak, a pariah, an emblem of our judgement-free sports culture.
The cage into which Gretzky scored his record-breaking goal today resides at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Perhaps Bud Selig will follow hockey’s practice and establish a commemorate display of Bonds’ record at Cooperstown one day: an encased syringe.

This entry was posted in Gary Bettman, Hockey Hall of Fame, Hockey Heroes, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Washington Post. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Silent Indictment

  1. Jay says:

    Bonds is a absolutely a jerk and almost certainly a steroid user. He also benefited at least as much from the dilution of pitching talent following expansion. However, he is, despite the all too obvious caveats, one of the most accomplished players ever. Bear in mind that many, if not most, of his contemporaries used steroids and yet Bonds still eclipsed them. I might not celebrate his accomplishments, but like any any unemotional, rational fan, I will marvel at them.
    P.S. Thanks for your awesome blog.

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