Chants of “Barry, Barry” rang out all over AT&T Park upon Barry Zito’s exit in the top of the 6th last night, and while the former A’s starter’s career resurrection remains a major storyline of this postseason, The Nation’s Dave Zirin prefers to focus on what he considers a deliberate diss to another Bay Area baseball icon. “They used to chant ‘Barry’ for someone else around here,” mused Fox Sports’ Joe Buck, to which analyst Tim McCarver responded, “…at Barry Manilow concerts.” In Zirin’s view, there’s much more to McCarver’s gag than terrible musical taste.
McCarver was actually making a poorly executed joke about the invisibility of Barry Bonds and at the expense of Barry Bonds. There is a delight that the baseball cognoscenti takes in making Barry Bonds their “invisible man.” It’s a way to marginalize him without confronting what he represents. He’s a home-run king in exile. He’s the end product of an era where owners made billions selling a steroid-enhanced product. He’s the person who can no longer tell the press to go to hell, because they won’t acknowledge his voice. The press corps once asked Bonds if he thought steroids was cheating. Bonds responded, “Is steroids cheating? You want to define cheating in America? When they make a shirt in Korea for a $1.50 and sell it here for 500 bucks. And you ask me what cheating means?” Now they don’t have to care what he thinks. Now they can humiliate him forever by denying his existence.
It’s so fitting that it was the fans of San Francisco who forced his name onto the airwaves. It’s the city where generations of people traveled to escape the sting of invisibility. It’s the city where shame is treated as the greatest sin of all. It’s the city where Barry Bonds can thumb his nose at the exile of Major League Baseball, and truly be home.