Bonds, Woods Focus of Sports Spotlight
BARRY BONDS (Leftfielder, San Francisco Giants): This record is not tainted at all. At all, period.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
That's the opinion of Barry Bonds, who has denied using steroids. Here's the opinion of commentator John Feinstein.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, to quote to Gerald Ford almost 33 years to the day, "our long, national nightmare is over."
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: You're talking about the wait for Barry Bonds to set the homerun record, which he did this week, 756.
FEINSTEIN: Let me - yeah. He finally set it on Tuesday night. And, you know, the sport of baseball has been held hostage by the Bonds situation not just this year but for the last several years because most of us don't believe this is a real record. We think, I think, others think it was a steroid-induced record, that Barry Bonds is a great player who probably would have hit somewhere around 550 or 600 homeruns if he had not started using steroids seven or eight years ago, and that it's a shame that Hank Aaron is no longer viewed by some as the homerun king in baseball.
But at least it's over and now, hopefully, Barry Bonds will recede at least in our consciousness for a while because he's really a very unpleasant person in every possible way. Regardless of how gracious he seemed after he hit the homerun on Tuesday night, it's very easy to be gracious when people are cheering you.
INSKEEP: Well, we should mention by means of full disclosure that you've had some run-ins with him from time to time in the past.
FEINSTEIN: I have, as have many others. But that doesn't affect my opinion of him as a great baseball player who would have been a hall-of-famer in terms of his numbers had he never taken steroids. He just would not have been the all-time homerun king.
INSKEEP: Is there an appropriate way to handle the record books?
FEINSTEIN: No. I don't think you can touch the record book. I think that baseball made the mistake of allowing steroids to become an epidemic in the late 1990s, and it will pay the price for that. Everyone will know that that was the steroid era. We've already found out that Mark McGwire is not going to be voted into the hall of fame because of that. Bonds probably will. Even though I wouldn't vote for him, I think a majority of voters will.
INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about another sport that is just beginning to talk about drug testing incidentally, but that will not be the news this week as the fourth and final major championship begins in golf. It's the PGA Championship, and Tiger Woods is the defending champion.
FEINSTEIN: He is the defending champion, but interestingly, Steve, he hasn't won a major championship this year. So even though he's won four tournaments already in 2007, he will consider this year a failure if he doesn't win at Southern Hills in Tulsa, which is a great, traditional golf course where many majors had been held. But it's going to be over a hundred degrees every day. And if Tiger walks away without the trophy on Sunday night, he's going to look back on 2007 as a disappointment no matter how many tournaments he wins or how much money he might make.
INSKEEP: Well, he's been close in the other majors but it's been the first-timers who have won each time.
FEINSTEIN: Really has been. Tiger was twice second to Zack Johnson at the Masters, to Angel Cabrera at the Open. He didn't really contend at the British Open, where Padraig Harrington won that dramatic playoff from Sergio Garcia. Every once in a while, Steve, you get a year where the stars don't shine in golf, and I think its kind of fun when that happens. The last time we had a year like this was 2003, where two of the four major champions - Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel - had never won tournaments, much less won a major titles.
INSKEEP: Is there anybody among those first-timers that you would expect to see again and again as the years go on?
FEINSTEIN: Yeah. I really think that Zack Johnson has the potential to be a star. Now, does that mean he wins two majors, three, four? I don't know. But he has star quality. He knows how to play under pressure. Cabrera and Harrington are a little bit older. They're more into middle age as golfers, so less likely to emerge at this point as true stars as opposed to just being very good players.
INSKEEP: Well, we'll be watching to see who emerges in Tulsa, Okalahoma at the Southern Hills Country Club, where they'll be playing in the heat this week. John, thanks very much.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: The comment of John Feinstein, author of "Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major."
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