Lately it feels as if I’ve wandered into one of the northern, non-baseball regions of this earth, where the sun never really rims above the horizon, where everyone I meet seems to have the soul of a bonefish, and where the landscape, cratered with sports like women’s volleyball and Australian-rules tennis, appears Permian in its utter lack of baseball.
I know the reason for this. It is simple and finite. And it has to do with the previous season, and Barry Bonds, and the lack thereof.
Seriously, does anyone else wake up surrounded by this foul month of January and wonder, dreamily, if last September really existed? If Big Poppa actually returned to hit 5 bombs in 42 at-bats, including a savage, Aztec-like sacrifice of a Livan Hernandez curveball?
Tell me the truth. It was all something Ray Ratto made up, as he dabbled in subjunctives and prophesy--the two favorite tools of our beloved Chron. Yes. That sounds right. Bonds didn’t play an inning last year.
And that explains why, right now, I feel submerged in two offseasons: the wintry, current one, along with the stretch of last summer, when, during a swath of 87 losses, I was forced to go on BarryBonds.com and read backwards his awful, publicist-written sentences, as if a hidden meaning, like that of the New Testament or a cigarette advertisement, lurked within.
But no. The only meaning in such overabundant offseasonness is: “Get used to it, you rube. What, you thought this would last forever, that .370 and 45 jacks would just keep falling from the sky like the mist of so many promenade water cannons?”
Well, um, yes. Yes I did. Because when the going is good, the future--especially in baseball--feels a lot further away than the 40-minute drive down to a San Jose Giants game.
That is, until the best player in history misses 7/8ths of the season, leaving Todd Linden in his stead.
Todd bleeping Linden. Talk about the soul of a bonefish.
But this all adds up to more than just a sense of offseason desolation. What it portends, in the end, is a coming apprehension--the doom-struck media frenzy we are all about to experience as Barry Bonds approaches George Herman and Hammerin’ Hank.
And you know best, Giants aficionados--especially those of you who love the team enough to follow them on this here internet--that the Bay Area will be seen as a pocket of Good Germans within the rest of the country, concerning the record chase. Already, in places like Alexandria and La Jolla, baseball fans are strapping extra-pointy needles to their foreheads, becoming narwhals of judgment toward Barry Bonds and steroids and even those who support him.
I was on the blog search-site Technorati this week, trying to steal me a few New York Times op-eds, when I typed in the name of our beloved slugger. This was right after he’d decided against participation in the World Baseball Classic.
Two bloggers stated openly that they wanted to punch Barry in the face--or at least that he should be punched. I guess they differed on the agency of the process.
One had chosen Big Poppa as his Noob of the Week.
Another lamented how Kobe Bryant had been voted the most-hated athlete in America during a GQ poll; it’s not a good sign when someone actually seems incredulous that the nation would dislike an accused rapist more than Bonds.
And the kindest sentiment, out of the first 20 results, was an AP article with its neutral, just-the-facts reporting on the WBC. Though of course there was a paragraph citing the stricter drug-testing policies of international competition.
What I can’t help imagining, reading this vitriol, is how Big Poppa himself is dealing with the offseason. I don’t actually believe that he’s been gallivanting around to golf junkets in the Caribbean.
Balls. Like any good dictator-minded star, I’m sure he employs a body double for such trips, perhaps a bulked-up Michael Tucker.
I like to imagine Barry spending the winter in an earth-cave of sorts, the kind that you see in cartoons when the camera pans below the surface, revealing a pocketed rabbit hole with bookshelves and picture frames. Homely and warm, this lair feels. Bonds is reclining in his Barca-lounger, and as snowdrifts powder the world above, he holds something to his chest: a beam of wood. And what’s that in his free hand, gleaming, out-of-place? Ah. It’s a knife. He is carving a bat. One that he will then use, when the season rolls around, to spear Brett Tomko’s blue-hearted chest...
You see? This is what a year of no Barry Bonds has done: I end up picturing him with rabbit ears.
So my point, Giants fans, is that what should be a coming season of celebration and reminiscence is really neither. It is a flash between winters: the current and the eternal, and soon, very soon, the career of Big Poppa will descend down toward the latter.
And all we can do is enjoy this encore with qualifications--all of which will readily be available to us via our many-mouthed Media.
But then we’re used to that, as fans of the San Francisco franchise. There is no glowing past, no 1997 or 1989 championship to look back upon with the forbearance of the privileged, knowing that World Series victories are simply a matter of patience, that eventually enough variables will coincide to bring the Bay City a trophy, too, finally washing us from the heinous list of losers, leaving behind the Cubs and Cleveland and the preternatural pity-party they seems locked within.
But instead of championships, we have been granted the chance to watch the greatest hitter ever. And we have been lucky enough to enjoy it.
Which is more than I can say for all those contempt-filled narwhals out there, spending every spearing breath hating such history.
So I guess we got that going for us. Though I must say, surrounded by offseasonness, I don’t feel the least bit greedy, wishing we could experience both this year.
Tim Denevi is a raving Giants fan who can't decide if he would rather have Mike Aldrete or Marvin Biz-nard pinch-hitting with the game on the line. E-mail him with your opinion on any issue at email@example.com
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