Manufacturing Drama

Steve Lopresti at USA Today says of Barry Bonds: “Suspend Bonds debate for now and savor the drama”.

I guess. See, here’s the thing. The “drama” isn’t really there to savor, for me. It’s more like “depression”.

What’s to celebrate? The fact that a guy can take illegal drugs, get all huge at age 34-5, and suddenly start hitting a bunch of home runs? Woo hoo.

Here’s a thought: to celebrate Bonds accomplishments is to spit in the face of baseball history. Discuss.

If somebody like Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn — both just inducted yesterday into the Hall of Fame — were on the verge of breaking this record, then yes, I’m all over the drama. I’ve been watching baseball for forty years, and am no stranger to the idea that drama should accompany history being made before my eyes. Even as a kid I knew all about Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs. And there is no record in all of sports like the career home run record. Baseball, more or less, invented the very idea of sports statistics and career records.

I remember the anticipation of Hank Aaron breaking the Babe’s record of 714, and the weeks leading up to it (across an off-season, no less). I watched it live on TV. I knew it was a huge deal, surrounded by drama so thick you could cut it with a knife. And lots of people — your basic racist haters — sure didn’t like the idea of Aaron breaking the Babe’s record, just because he was black. You can bet that if he’d been a cartoon character with guns like Arnold, like Bonds has been for years now, there would have been even more controversy.

But drama isn’t invited; it just shows up at the door, unannounced. Toting a twelve pack under one arm, face pressed against the screen door. We like it when drama shows up this way. What we don’t like is when the Drama Quota Police show up and instruct us to invite drama in, even though his head hurts, his feet stink, and he don’t love Jesus.

Drama is there because people want it there, because they know that history is about to change. If the Barry Bonds home run chase isn’t providing enough drama for some, there are probably various reasons for that, reasons that are quite valid.

Asking us to bypass all those reasons and just savor the drama, because some of us think there should be more of it, is to miss the point. It’s fake drama, created by media organizations like ESPN and USA Today, who live for drama, no matter how contrived.

So millions of us non-drama-savoring baseball fans will watch Bonds hit a couple of home runs, and yawn, and consider both Aaron’s record and Ruth’s record unmatched in baseball history.

We like meaning attached to our drama, thank you very much.

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