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May 23, 2006

Chasing The Leader

Derek Shackelford

Sometime soon Barry Bonds will move into second place on the all time home run list. No one can even turn on a major news channel, pick up a newspaper, or listen to the radio without some mention of Mr. Bonds and the daily reports of how he did at the dish.

Currently he stands at 714 (unless he hit one last night), tied for second place with the immortal Babe Ruth. That's right ladies and gentlemen second place.

The daily fuss over how Barry Bonds is doing is over 2nd place. Babe Ruth is in second place with 714 homeruns since Hank Aaron broke The Babe's record on April 8, 1974. Babe Ruth is the most remembered second place figure in sports history. No one pays much attention to this position, except those who do not want Barry Bonds to pass The Babe.

Mr. Bonds has garnered much of the media attention due to allegations that he used steroids. There have been several books written about him and his alleged substance abuse.

Mr. Bonds for the most part will not comment on the allegations and refuses interviews in which the topic is discussed. Fans across the major leagues have openly rooted against him in the quest for second place on the home run list.

Most of the ridicule ranges from hastily scribbled signs to verbal barrages. Many baseball fans have come to the conclusion that Bonds has cheated his way to his place in baseball history.

The media frenzy over second place causes one to wonder: what is the obsession with bringing down one individual over a home run chase? Barry Bonds may be the greatest baseball player of our generation. This may cause some controversy because some of the greatest players ever such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams were never embroiled in substance controversy.

This leads many to believe that Mr. Bonds is not in that class because of possible performing enhancing drugs. His detractors point out his aloofness towards the media and his constant rebuttals of steroid use as reasons to place an asterisk beside his name in the record books.

But is Barry Bonds really any different than the second place Ruth. Babe Ruth used substances. Alcohol was his preferred "drug" of choice. He enhanced his performance. It has been reported that he dated several women at the same time. So why does it seem that Babe Ruth gets a free pass as a role model that Barry Bonds doesn't.

As a society we have an obsession with sports. Many of us are - or have been - involved in sports through the years and appreciate the lessons that we learned playing. The emphasis on winning and accomplishment did not start when Barry Bonds became a major leaguer but in an earlier age.

From the large stadiums with luxury skyboxes, to multi-million dollar television contracts, it is no wonder that one uses any advantage to get ahead. This does not make it right; but one can see the fascination of gaining an edge.

The question is how many of us have used an advantage to get ahead in our profession? After all, how many actually remember a second place finisher, which is why Henry Aaron should be on a pedestal because he is No. 1.

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I feel very fortunate to be able to express my views on various topics by using this writing medium. I do not call myself a professional journalist by any stretch of the imagination. We - as a culture - get much of our news information through various sources, whether that is television, print, or media. Of course, some of the information is slanted and we still take it as the honest truth.

The older I have gotten the more I realize how much I do not know and the quest to gain more knowledge is a pursuit that I readily enjoy. I try to gain that knowledge through various sources.

This is why once a week I visit SLB Barbershop on West Patrick Street. Different kinds of people visit the barbershop and offer their opinion on sports all the way up to politics. Some patrons are in corporate executive positions, and other who are blue collar workers.

What I like about the barbershop is that everyone has something to offer to the conversation and many great points are thrown around. The knowledge that is spread may not be heard on the airwaves, written in the print media, or watched on television. But if you ever get the chance stop by SLB Barbershop and get enlightened.

By the way, the haircuts are worth the trip.

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