King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Barry Bonds blames the media. Yeah, we got him good this time. Plus: Pat Summitt breaks Dean Smith's record. Can we compare them? Of course.


Salon Staff
March 24, 2005 1:00AM (UTC)

Got him. It took years, but we got him. We finally got Barry Bonds, we media types. You should see the parties we're having right now.

"You guys wanted to hurt me bad enough, you finally got me," Bonds told assembled reporters Tuesday while saying that he might miss half the season or more following a recovery setback and his third knee surgery since the end of last season, though the Giants say they don't think he'll be out that long.

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"You wanted me to jump off a bridge," he said. "You wanted to bring me down. You finally have brought me and my family down. You've finally done it, everybody, all of you. So now go pick a different person."

At last. So, OK. Let's see.

Who should we get?

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I'm sorry, I'm breaking the media omerta by thinking out loud here. You're not supposed to know that there's nothing we like more than having the best player and most amazing hitter of his generation, and maybe any generation, on the sidelines. We'd hate to have someone approaching and passing Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, then setting his sights on Henry Aaron's all-time record.

No, that wouldn't sell any papers, generate any page views, increase ratings. Especially in light of all the controversy over the legitimacy of Bonds' records that's followed our forcing him to take steroids.

And then there's the matter of our making an ex-girlfriend -- one who has said Bonds told her about his steroid use over their years together -- say that Bonds gave her cash he'd raised by signing baseballs so she could buy a house. That has pricked up the ears of the IRS -- an agency that does the media's bidding, as you know -- which wants to know if Bonds reported that cash income.

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Listen: There is nothing easier in this world than for an athlete or entertainer to manipulate his or her public image. When you're watching the rest of the NCAA Tournament over the next two weekends, take note of how many times the TV announcers refer to a player as a delightful guy, a fine young man, a quality human being.

How do the announcers know this about these guys? Because they've heard it from the coach or the sports information director, or because they've talked to the player for a second or two at a practice or after a game, or, in a few cases, because they've sat down for a few minutes for an interview with him.

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Are all of these star players great human beings, nice guys, fine young men? Were the star athletes at your high school or college great human beings?

It's easy to be polite and nice and humble for a few minutes for Billy Packer and Dick Vitale and Jim Nantz, big-time guys from big TV networks who you know are going to talk about you on national TV. Ask the beat writer for the campus paper to rate the starting five as human beings, or better yet, ask a cross-section of the student body.

Here's an excerpt from a letter in the current In Style magazine: "I'm always amazed at how well you capture Hollywood's favorite actresses. Take Nicole Kidman, for example. What impressed me most about Nicole is her honesty, humbleness and grace. She is like one of your best girlfriends whom you can call up and say, 'Let's have a movie night!'"

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Really? Is that what Nicole Kidman is like? Maybe she is. She doesn't return my calls so I've never met her, but that portrayal of Kidman is pretty typical of glossy celebrity media. Are all of the big stars as nice and approachable and down to earth as they seem? How come so few of them seem that way when you run across them in public?

I realize In Style is part of the Hollywood publicity machine and not a news outlet, but the sports world has its equivalents. Even in serious magazines that do solid, important reporting, like Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine, every athlete not named John Rocker who's profiled is, at the very worst, misunderstood. Even Barry Bonds, most of the time.

You have to really go some for the media to turn on you as unanimously as it's done with Bonds. You have to start with complete disdain for the simple human activity of getting along with other people, but that's still not enough. You then have to screw up. A lot.

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Barry Bonds is in a select group that's combined these elements masterfully. Pete Rose is in that group. Now-forgotten singer Liam Gallagher of Oasis. Ryan Leaf.

Giants teammates who've been through injuries say Bonds was probably just venting a typical post-surgery depression Tuesday. He probably was, but nothing he said was out of character.

More than the average typist, I think, I've defended Barry Bonds and criticized my own profession. But blaming the media for your troubles: That's the last refuge of a scoundrel.

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Pat Summitt: In Dean Smith's league and how [PERMALINK]

When Tennessee beat Purdue Tuesday night in the second round of the women's NCAA Tournament, it was coach Pat Summitt's 880th career win, passing North Carolina men's legend Dean Smith for first place on the all-time Division I list.

There's been a lot of dumb talk this week about how you can't compare Summitt's achievement to Smith's because comparing women's and men's college basketball is like comparing apples and oranges. It needs to stop.

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There's nothing wrong with comparing apples to oranges. They're both round, both fruits, roughly the same size. Apples and oranges are a lot more similar than they are different. The same goes for men's and women's college basketball.

Yes, the level of competition hasn't been the same for much of Summitt's career. Women's college basketball in the '70s was a primitive, prehistoric sport, talentwise -- though it should be noted that Summitt's Tennessee teams have always played a very tough schedule.

But the same can be said for men's college basketball in 1930, when Adolph Rupp got the first of his 875 wins, or even, to a certain extent, 1961, when Smith got his first, on the way to breaking Rupp's record. There's no asterisk next to their win totals.

The quality of play was universal. There wasn't much ability in women's basketball in the 1970s and early '80s, but Summitt was fishing from the same pool as everybody else, and she was winning.

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And if Summitt only got to Smith's neighborhood by stacking up huge piles of wins when the competition wasn't there, how do you explain the fact that as the overall level of play has improved, so has Summitt's winning percentage?

How do you explain that in the last 10 years, when women's basketball has become better than ever and even joined the fringes of the mainstream as a spectator sport, Tennessee has been to the Final Four eight times, made the Championship Game seven times, including the last two, and won three titles?

Summitt's achievement is every bit as great as Dean Smith's. Just ask Dean Smith. He'll say the same thing, and he oughta know.

Previous column: The cost of your slacking

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