Barry Bonds said the most amazing thing this weekend. It was not about steroids or the U.S. justice system, though he talked about that, too. No, what Bonds told reporters in San Francisco was this:
"I gave my life and soul to that game. That's what's heartbreaking. That's the hard part of it. My (reputation) was kind of iffy anyway. I created that guy out there for entertainment only. Whether you hated me or liked me, you were there. And I only wanted you there. I just wanted you to see the show. That was it. All I ever wanted was for people to have a good time and enjoy it. It was fun to come out and people would boo or yay or whatever. They all showed up to see whatever would happen next and it motivated me to play hard."
I created that guy out there for entertainment only. Whether you hated me or liked me, you were there.
If this were the case, of course, Barry Bonds would have an easy second career. He could be an Oscar-winning actor. After all, this would mean that he spent two decades brushing people off, alienating himself from teammates and irritating the media, just so people could have a good time. What an impressive performance, and how charitable of him.
I'm not here to skewer Bonds. That's no longer our national sport, and the man is retired. We don't need to have a hammer at the ready for every time his head pops up in public.
Bonds is lying (not to investigators this time, thankfully). But if you look closely, I think you will find it a little sad. I don't know Bonds, but it seems to me that he isn't just lying to us. He is lying to himself. He is saying that he didn't care if people liked him ... precisely because now he wants people to like him.
He wants us to think we were all in this together. We weren't. We were there, side-by-side -- us marveling at his ability, him also marveling at his ability -- but not together.
Bonds sounds like he is discovering the painful truth for any star athlete. He spent two decades in ballparks with people watching his every move. It's lopsided math, 50,000 watching 18, but when Bonds retired, he discovered: The crowd gets to stick around, but the ballplayer does not.
Now Bonds wants a job with the Giants, who may be inclined to give it to him. He was always more popular in San Francisco than he was everywhere else on the planet.
Barry Bonds said one very true thing on Sunday: He did give his life and soul to that game. It enveloped him, the way it envelops most of the great ones. If you have followed Bonds over the years, ask yourself: Do you think he ever had a moment when he didn't view himself as a superstar?
That's a hard costume to take off. But we will (hopefully) have Bonds around for the next few decades, in and out of All-Star Game salutes and ceremonial first pitches and whatever else he gets to do. He didn't create the steroid era and wasn't its worst offender. After all, he was on a Hall of Fame track before the time he apparently dabbled in the stuff.
For years, pitchers had no idea what to do with Barry Bonds. Now fans aren't sure either. From the sound of it, Bonds isn't so sure himself.