“Summer Spectacular”

There are words that I like using, and there are other words that make me cringe.

“Quintessential” is a poignant but obviously overused word to describe something that is the “most typical.” It is correct in it’s use if you are explaining that: “Baseball is the quintessential American sport” or if you were to say that: “Larry the Cable Guy is the quintessential American redneck.” Both are correct, but it does pack more of a punch if the word is used sporadically.

“Utilize” is a word that is used when the task that you are undertaking is just too important for the word “use” to describe. “Utilize” has to be one of the top five words in memos all over corporate America used to motivate the eyes of the (corporate) world to open and complete mundane tasks. This word bothers me more than people who use big words out of context and the word “moist” (which is just creepy).

“Spectacular” seems to get thrown around this 4th of July week every year, and though the word has never struck me for being anything other than the straight man’s “fabulous”, the adjective is used to describe everything from fireworks displays to furniture sales and from baseball games to the Boston Pops. TV commercials, junk ads and marquees are all trying to tell you how awesome and different they are by pretty much all using the same words.

I guess it just wouldn’t sound proper if somebody said that they sat through an “exceptional” fireworks display. Well, maybe the people at NPR could pull it off, and those people who wear turtlenecks and small wire-rimmed glasses (which, I’m pretty sure are the same people).

I digress.

By the time you read this column, you will have seen the fireworks and sat in the traffic that gridlocks this area every single year. Hopefully, by the time you read this, the traffic may have finally broken and you actually got to your destination. It’s amazing to me how many people choose to drive to see the fireworks. There are enough displays strategically placed throughout town that most people do not have to drive more than 20 blocks to see them (which is less than two miles). God forbid we Americans have a brisk walk now and again. You could get there faster if you were rollerblading badly, and if you are willing to wait in line for three days to audition for American Idol, would it be too grueling on your personal stamina to walk to see some fireworks?

I’m just putting it out there to you the general public as something to mull over for the next year. Don’t think this is one of those Sheryl Crow “only use one piece of toilet paper in order to do your part in saving the planet” speeches, because I don’t have the energy or the discipline to have a cause that I’m standing on a soap-box for.

When I think of the 4th of July and fireworks in that hindsight being 20/20 way, I think about family gatherings on my grandparents’ farm and trying to hit my uncle’s curveball and knock it over the red barn and into the hay field. Grass stains, hot dogs, copious amounts of Coca-Cola and the stomach-ache that always seemed to bring me to my knees while I was rounding third base just after taking the “seventh inning stretch” that was dinner. These are all memories that feel like the 4th and baseball is a part of a lot of them.

I’ve gotten away from my love for baseball. The game is still a thrill, but my attention span for it is much shorter. I can’t tell you the last time that I sat through an entire game on television or went to see a game at the ballpark. I took my son to see a Shorebirds game a year ago, and the game was rained out in the fourth inning, but I remember the look on his face seeing all the things happening around the park. It makes me want to try it again now that he’s a bit older.

It’s not the game of baseball that has made me turn my head, it’s the players. Much like God is not turning me away from organized religion, it’s the hypocrites that attend church and the whack jobs that do crazy things in God’s name that do.

Which brings me to Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds is on the verge of breaking the greatest record in baseball (Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs) and there are many people that want nothing more than for Bonds to get injured so he doesn’t break this record. I’ve heard people say some amazing things concerning how much they loathe the idea of him hitting #756 that it is almost like that eery feeling of seeing your really mellow friend get angry for the first time or seeing a baby that isn’t cute: simply unsettling.

Whether or not you are pulling for Bonds to break the record is inconsequential, because unless he gets intentionally walked for the rest of the year, breaks a leg getting out of the shower, or somehow gets into some sort of a hot air balloon accident, he’s going to break the record.

The biggest thing that bothers me about Bonds is that he’s a colossal jerk. The media hates him, the fans don’t like him, and even his own teammates don’t like him. He represents everything that is wrong with professional sports today. The “Me First Gimme Gimme” mentality is killing team sports, because there are no true teams anymore. They are hired guns for one to two years of a contract to get tickets sold, and championships won.

So maybe Bonds used steroids. Pete Rose bet on baseball, Mantle was a drunk and Babe Ruth was a womanizing, chain smoking, fat guy, (and also a drunk.) All of them are going to be legends whether you like it or not. Time has a way of forgiving people if you want to forgive them.

Bonds is going to break the record and perhaps the best we can hope for is that he’ll reach the same level of karmic obscurity as Pete Rose has now: which is charging $200 for Asian tourists to get his autograph and a picture at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

They don’t make athletes like Roy Hobbs in “the Natural” anymore.

Maybe they never did.

It doesn’t mean that I’ll never try to hit the ball into the imaginary scoreboard, exploding it into a fireworks display that is not only exceptional but definitely spectacular.

But, for right now, all I will say is that Barry Bonds is the quintessential “Modern Day Professional Athlete” which is a nice way to say that he is the “most typical overpaid jerk-off.”

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