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Where Did Competition Take Barry Bonds?

By Rob Trahan(12,495) Rob Trahan

Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007
View All Blog Posts submitted by Rob Trahan

Competition. It is the defining concept of sport. Without competition, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, jai alai, cricket, tennis, and on and on would just be exercise.

Competition starts early (and with each generation, it starts earlier and earlier). My six-year-old son's soccer team starts asking, "who's winning?" before we even make it out of the first quarter. And I wish I could say they just started it!

Competition drives talented, athletic kids out of sports well before they reach that other dirty word, fame. By now we've all heard the statictics about how if a child begins playing sports at three, chances are he will quit before he turns 12. How many future Cy Young pitchers or hall of fame quarterbacks have been ruined by too much competition too early?

Competition drives high school athletes to drugs, unhealthy weight training and, sometimes, even death. It pushes coaches to stress and burn out. Unless the coach has a good team, in which case it drives him to embarrassingly unsportsmanlike actions like blowing out inferior competition just to make headlines. Yes, we compete for attention in sports, too.

Competition pushes college recruiters, boosters, coaches, students/players, teachers and even administrators to stoop below acceptable and, in some cases, into the illegal. Recently, competition cost the University of Oklahoma a starting quarterback. It may cost Reggie Bush and USC a lot more than that. And how many students pay for competition with their education. Look at graduation rates sometime. It's staggering.

And competition has warped professional sports to the point where it is often unrecognizable. And a lot of this type of competition doesn't even happen on the field. It's competition for television time and for a bigger share of the pie and competition against the record books. Competition for an athlete's "rightful place" in history. Whatever that means.

When did athletes become entitled to anything more than pay for their work? That's what everyone else gets, right? I don't go to work every day for the chance to be immortalized in the Designer's Hall of Fame. I go to work because I'm good at what I do and I enjoy it. I'm thankful that I can get paid for it and provide food for my family.

We see Alex Rodriguez playing the Yankees into a 10 year, $275 million contract. $275 million! To play a game for 10 years. And all he did was set the bar higher for other players to get theirs. Because you can't pay a player what he's worth, you have to pay him what the "market" deems is reasonable. And it all comes back to competition. Competition for butts in seats. Competition for legitimacy.

And somewhere along the line competition turned into entitlement. Rodriguez backed out of a perfectly good contract making an obscene amount of money that no normal person could spend in his life because he felt entitled to more. He makes more a year than most businesses and he needs more?

Which brings us to Barry Bonds. The speculation has been that it was competition that drove Bonds to juice. Not competition on the field ... at least not exactly. It was competition for attention. Competition for what I'm sure he thought was his spot in history. His limelight that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were stealing.

And today competition finally caught up with him. The Federal Grand Jury that seems to have been investigating for the better part of the millennium has indicted Bonds on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice stemming from his testimony in the BALCO trial where he said he never knowingly used steriods and that his trainer and friend, Greg Anderson, never supplied performance enhancing drugs. All the while dodging the pieces of paper and pencils that had begun orbiting around his massive dome.

What will be the fallout of the forthcoming Bonds trial? My guess is it will be much less than the findings of George Mitchell's steroids investigation, at least if the rumors are true about his list of names.

Personally, I wish we could start over, and not just in baseball, but all sports. Do you remember when you were a kid and you and a friend would be walking somewhere. One of you would quicken your step just a little, to be in front. Then the other would speed up. Soon you would both be speed walking, then jogging, then one of you would break out into a full on sprint. The race would be borne from nothing more than the desire to compete and usually wouldn't end until one of you either ran into something or tripped over something. Professional sports have been sprinting for a while now. Each new day brings another story of an athlete, team or league taking one more, slightly faster, step toward ... where? It's only a matter of time until someone trips or runs into a wall. And I think Barry Bonds just stumbled.

This Blog Post has been read 462 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Thursday, November 15, 2007
View other posts by Rob Trahan

Comments on this blog post:

Jamie from Dover: (196 days 10 hours ago.)
Awesome article! Great points and writing!

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