Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Unconditional Love

Watching the Major League Baseball All-Star Game last night, I was not expecting to get a glimpse of genuine love. Before the game began there was an interview with arguably the best player ever to play baseball, Willie Mays. Mays played most of his career for the Giants and since the game was being held in San Fransisco, they made a big deal out of Willie, and rightly so.

Willie Mays began playing for the Giants in 1951, when he won rookie of the year honors. During his tenure with the team, he played with a man named Bobby Bonds. Bonds used to bring his young son around the clubhouse and even made the great Willie Mays the kid's godfather. That boy grew up to be quite the ballplayer himself. Barry Bonds broke into the league in the mid 80's and immediately began to tear it up. He was a fantastic player with all around abilities. He was well into a Hall of Fame career when something odd began to happen to him and virtually every other slugger in the game. They began to grow. There has been speculation and, at times, proof that a whole bunch of major league players were using performance enhancing drugs to improve their abilities and ultimately hit more home runs.

Barry Bonds has become the poster child and scapegoat for this issue. He broke the single season home run record, hitting an unbelievable 73 home runs in 2001, breaking Mark McGwire's only slightly more believable record of 70, hit three years earlier. Now, as Bonds approaches the most hallowed record in sport, Hank Aaron's 755 career home runs, he is getting the brunt of criticism more and more. Add to this that Bonds' father, with whom he was immensely close, died in 2003, one can see how this is a stressful time for Barry, even if it may be a situation he put himself in.

That's why last night's festivities were so amazing to me. Willie Mays, the great hero of baseball, continues to stand up for his godson. Willie stands proudly next to Barry, the man he's known since childhood, in the place where Barry's father can no longer stand. Willie doesn't address the steroids issue; I've never heard him even make an allusion to his feelings one way or another. He has only one position: Barry Bonds is like a son to me and I'm with him no matter what.

I try to keep the sports topics out of this blog because they can dilute the content and turn off readers, but this story is not really about sports. Willie Mays, at 76 years old, still has some hero in him. Willie is teaching us about love and loyalty in a way that rings true in my life. We don't abandon those we love just because they made some poor decisions. Barry Bonds will not have to worry like the pregnant teenager suddenly homeless or the drug addict in jail with no one to bail him out. Even Barry Bonds, the most hated man in professional sports, has a base of love. Willie Mays, one of the sport's great ambassadors, has one more lesson for us to learn.

No comments: