I have been on the planet for quite awhile now. I have witnessed two different guys pursue the all time home run record. These things are never easy for the players involved. Number one, hitting home runs is hard. Hitting home runs when so many people wish you wouldn't can't be very pleasant for anyone.
Hank Aaron is taking heat these days for not embracing the Bonds pursuit. Though I believe Aaron is a true gentleman he is not immune to human emotion. While he was going for the record in 74, I wasn't all that pleased. I didn't care that he was breaking Ruth's record, I was mightily indignant that it wasn't Willie Mays hitting 715. Willie was and remains my one sports hero. I thought Hank was a great player but just not as deserving. I ramped up all the excuses. Willie lost 2 years to the army, Willie had to play in cavernous home fields while Aaron got the launching pad, Willie was the ultimate team player who would happily fore go the home run to win a game some other way.
Mays was the man. The player of the century as far as I am concerned but he would have faced just as much scorn and abuse as Aaron did had he been the one to break the record. Not only for the ugly racial hate but also because baseball fans don't particularly cherish players from other teams. Fans respect talent but they love their own guys. I would wager that Yankee fans didn't think Aaron was as deserving as the Mick. Reds fans probably think Frank Robinson was the guy who really should be regarded as the best home run hitter. Fans tend to root more with their heart than with their head.
Now comes Bonds and his pursuit is as chock full of vitriol and sturm and drang as Hank's. We still have tinges of racial animus, steroids and money swirling around. We have fans who want Barry to break that record and fans who really, really don't. There isn't a whole lot of middle ground.
If I live long enough I suppose I will see another guy climb this mountain. I am certain that when that day comes the moment will still be as full of angst and bitterness and yes, joyous celebration as the last two times.
However, like Hank, who is entitled to his opinion, and Bonds, the next guy will have earned this record. He will deserve our respect if not our devotion.
Right now it's Bonds who should be accorded all the accolades. He did it. I say well done, Barry. Bravo!!!