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Old 08-08-2007, 03:36 PM   #1
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Default Bonds: Another Story to Be Learned by minibronco

Does Selflessness and Charity Justify Cheating?
by minibronco

When controversial slugger Barry Bonds stepped up to the plate for the first time Tuesday evening, the San Francisco crowd went absolutely wild. Tied with Hank Aaron for the most career home runs hit in league history with 755, one could say destiny was in the air at AT&T park. The less-than-intimidating Washington National sent their left-handed pitcher Mike Bacsik to the mound. Less than eight seconds later, Bacsik found his first pitch being absolutely crushed to the deep part of field, clearing the wall by a good five rows, his otherwise unknown surname now entrenched in the record books for keeps. 756. Bonds stands alone.

Bonds, afterwards, told reporters:

This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period. You guys can say whatever you want.

I'll take this moment to explain my stance on Bonds' seemingly endless chase for the home run crown. First of all, the entire chase took way too long and basically put the baseball season on hold (during the playoff race). Second of all, I don't care if Bonds took steroids or not, and I'm not going to use the "it hasn't been proven" argument. Pretend, for a moment, he did indeed take steroids for a fact. 756 is still a hella lot of home runs no matter how you put it, Bonds is still one of the best hitters ever technique-wise, and moreover, many baseball players have tried steroids at one time or another--even pitchers. If a juiced-out Bonds can hit 756 balls out of the park against juiced-out pitchers, then it makes his feat all that more impressive.

But don't get me wrong. I'm not agreeing with Bonds, or defending him, for that matter. I'll hold the asterisk signs along with the crowd any day for the plain reason that Bonds has not handled himself publicly very well, and he comes off as a jerk to me. It seems like he fits the athlete stereotype of the self-centered individual, and for that reason alone I found it hard to celebrate with him last night. On that note, it was much easier to honor Tom Glavine for his 300th win a few days ago simply because he was a humble man. Hypothetically speaking, if test results proved that Glavine had juiced with HGH since his rookie season, I'd still applaud for him.

This leads us to a more important discussion:

Does charitable work and selfless volunteerism ever justify cheating?

This question was posed in the most recent issue of ESPN magazine, and I'd like to touch on it. Let's put the Bonds story aside for the moment and talk about something a little more inspiring.

Livestrong wristbands. We all know about them, we've all seen them, and some of us have them. On last count, Livestrong wristbands have generated $63 million.

$63 million. I'll give you a moment for that to sink in. (Oh, by the way, Armstrong's original goal was $5 million, but they achieved that within half a year.)

Now, there are many allegations that say Lance Armstrong, America's favorite (and possibly only known) cyclist, used steroids en rout to winning seven consecutive Tour de France's. Now, I myself hope that's not true, but let's pretend for a moment that Armstrong juicing is indeed a fact.

Also assuming that Livestrong wristbands would not have had their popularity if Armstrong was not able to win these races, the question is: Are his charitable efforts ($63M) worth seven straight years of winning by cheating?

The answer could be yes. Any way you think of it, $63 million worth of cancer research is a lot, and who knows where cancer research progress would be without that huge sum of money. It's indeed going towards saving millions of lives each year, and at the end of the day, the Tour de France is just a bunch of silly juiced-out foreigners doing what Chinese people do every day at a very high speed. At the end of the day, the Tour de France is just sports entertainment and recreation, and the $63 million is saving lives.

The answer could be no. Any way you think of it, cheating is cheating, and the fact that Armstrong won seven straight just totally trumps the childhood adage: "cheaters never win; winners never cheat." Cheaters are not supposed to prosper, but Armstrong did and he did so profitably. All of his fame and glory is at the expense of innocuously "clean" riders (who are searching for fame and glory themselves), and the American public's inspirational cancer idol has been lying to them for who knows how long.

But when you think of the $63 million--and possibly more importantly, the millions of cancer patients who have sought and received inspiration from Lance's comeback story of defeating cancer on the road to victory--maybe his magnanimous charity justifies cheating, in a sense. If not, it definitely softens the blow when you think about it, and while Lance's story is all but over, the impact of his donation, both monetary and spiritually, to the realm of the cancer patient remains profound.

Back to Bonds. You didn't forget about him, did you?

What if Bonds decides to buy back his home run ball and auction it off for charity?

What if Bonds auctioned off all of his milestone home run balls for charity?

What if Bonds spent all of his "off" days in New Orleans rebuilding houses, restoring the community?

What if Bonds had spent time in hospitals, signing autographs, playing with kids, taking pictures?

What if Bonds had used his fame and his glory chase for a cause bigger than himself?

Would we applaud?

Chances are, we would. It seems like, in the end, we celebrate and sympathize not just based on the merit of one's actions, but also based on the overall picture and the person's other actions. This doesn't just apply to sports. No matter how great someone else's accomplishment may be, it's very hard to celebrate with that person if he or she has been a jerk to you the past few years.

Sometimes, it may not even be that direct. Bonds has never truly personally affected us with his self-involved attitude; but it's a deep, unconscious feeling that restrains most of us from commemorating his milestone even though 756 is pretty damn impressive.

And even though it may be be a pain for us to say that charity and selflessness can justify cheating to a degree, there is so much cheating and corner-cutting in life that helping others may just be refreshing enough for us to see things differently.
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