General Sports

The Tempest

Of course it matters. This is Hank Aaron we’re talking about here, enduring proof that greatness can be discovered within consistency, Hank Aaron, class act, a hero in this and future generations, transcendent of the vicious scorn that compromised his time. This is Hank Aaron, baseball’s all-time home run king, a living legend.

This is his mark, what he earned. That is the symbol of a bygone era, what could have existed that never came to pass, what should have been but never was.

It’s an idea, a fantasy, for those who wouldn’t quit dreaming.
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?
Come on, now.
I hear you’re feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain,
Get you on your feet again.
I need some information first.
Just the basic facts,
Can you show me where it hurts?”

Oh, how idyllic I was, starting my sports writing venture

I sought to awaken with my writing, shake the bored from the deeply imbedded doldrums of processed journalism. I honestly believed people, en masse, were capable of learning from the successes and failure of their contemporaries, from the truth and lies of life. But, as I’ve discovered over the years, even personally, valuable pearls of wisdom often crack under the feet of men.

I believed in a progressive state of mind, free from the mainstream. Judge not, I implored. Condemn the system, not Bonds, I begged. Understand the curse of celebrity, instead of feeding it, I implored.

Yeah, my voice would never be a simple echo.

But am I running on empty?


Not easy avoiding the storm. Entire websites are dedicated to the “comments” section. Sides are picked. Battles are fought. Everything is an argument, a complicated web conceived in conceit. Alex Rodriguez’s extra-marital affair becomes a moral maelstrom; Kenny Lofton is recognized as a credible secondary source. Tragedy becomes an invitation, for anonymous message board cretins to display their keen wit.

Style has bludgeoned substance. Logic has ceased to be meaningful, in almost any measure.
Jason Whitlock is fired for refusing to be a phony. Billy Beane wrote Moneyball. Joe Torre is a racist.

And why do we accept it?

Barry Bonds. We saw him add a massive amount of muscle to a previously svelte physique. We watched in complete and utter awestruck reverence, as his offensive production became an absurdity. We closed our eyes, at the obvious evidence.

I mean, we just sat there, in 2001, and watched.

We celebrated the unadulterated power. We, uniformly, patted ourselves on the back, just for being there.

Such is the style of ESPN, and the culture it has cultivated.

Nobody wants to be left out of the highlight.


I understand now, or at least think I’m getting there.

Why bother to boo Barry Bonds? Why clamor for his demise?

Barry Bonds was inevitable. Look at us. Look at what we idolize, look at our culture.

American Idol nudges us to point and laugh at mentally handicapped people. Reality television puts us on a perch, gifts us pity vision. We cast our eyes south, at the overweight, the outcasts, the hilariously inept and hopelessly addicted.

We relish our normalcy.

And yet, we boo Barry Bonds?


Barry Bonds, an American villain?

Barry Bonds is recklessly superficial. He is currently risking his life, probably taking massive quantities of steroids and amphetamines, all in the fickle name of an instant legacy.

The same could be said of our country. We are risking our future, refusing to step up and change a corroding culture, which substitutes wealth for morals, which produces the abstract comedy, and often senseless tragedy, of millionaires armed and dangerous.

What of the sad commentary that an alarming percentage of athletes possess legitimate motivation to be crowned gangsters instead of champions? When does this become an American problem, not just a league specific embarrassment?

“There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re sayin’.”

This worries me.

Have I become bitter, an echo?

I accept what I can’t change. When ESPN grants the delusional, race baiting ramblings of Gary Sheffield legitimacy, I solemnly shake my head and move on.

Is this apathy?

It’s a contradiction, really.

I’ve attempted to write this article, many times before. But I’d grow enraged, typing garbled garbage that isn’t up to my, or anyone else’s standards. [This one, in fact, had to be heavily edited to even attain readability.]  The piece would either be about Barry Bonds, Sheffield’s latest sociological tiff, my nemesis over in Bristol, the disgrace becoming Mike Vick, or even society at large.

I just couldn’t do it.

Finally, an epiphany overtook me, earlier today at work, in fact.

It’s all the same.

Bonds. Sheffield. ESPN. Steroids. Free Safeties touting pistols. Media. Commercialism.

It all leads to anger.

Raindrops in a tempest.
Is this really America? Is Barry Bonds an apt player in this generational theater?

I’ve noticed the apathy. People hate some sportswriters, and they complain. People hate teams, and they complain. People hate and hate and hate, and they do nothing to make it better, because they are too busy venting from a bottomless pit.

We have to think, challenge ourselves more. We can’t continue lowering ourselves to the mainstream’s level. That’s exactly what they want, for us to harbor so much anger toward them that we waste our talent futilely attempting to articulate rage.

No more.

There’s nothing to be done about Bonds now, nothing we could have stopped. He envied our idle worship of Sosa and McGwire, wanted that emptiness to be his. The cycle continued, and before we blink, a new Barry will arise, so long the world doesn’t change.

Again, the trepidation strikes.
Hank Aaron than. Barry Bonds now.
Is it really getting better?
I’m never writing this article again.
I hope.
“When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I got that feeling once again.
I can’t explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.
– Pink Floyd

[Matt Waters]

By mw2828

Matt Waters is a screenwriter currently living in New York. He has been writing about sports since age seventeen, about the time when it became painfully apparent that his athletic dreams would go unfulfilled, due to terrible luck and an obscene lack of talent. His favorite movie is “The Thin Red Line”. His favorite band is “Modest Mouse”. His favorite sport is baseball! With an exclamation point.

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