Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Tortorella and Bonds

If you have yet to read Dave Lozo’s excellent piece on the hell that was covering John Tortorella, take a couple of minutes to check it out. It’s an especially valuable piece for those sports fans who look at writers and say, “You are soooooo lucky! You get to meet the players! Meet the coaches! Holy cow!”

Let me say: I am lucky. I’ve been able to make a career out of writing and covering sports. It’s a joyful gig; one I’ve never regretted pursuing. It is not, however, without its negatives.

Lovo’s account immediately returned me to my baseball days at Sports Illustrated, when I was regularly positioned in San Francisco to chronicle the high times of Barry Bonds. Because of a mutual friend, in the early 2000s I was able to secure the magazine’s first one-on-one with Barry since he had joined the Giants a decade earlier. Bonds had long made it clear that he detested SI, ever since Richard Hoffer’s excellent (and accurate) profile presented him as a whiny baby. However, we sat down for an hour or so, and he was quite good. Chatty, introspective, intelligent. I had no real complaints …

… except that I had 100,000 complaints. There is no worse way to judge a person than how he treats you. Or, put differently, just because Bonds gave me a sound interview didn’t make him any less the dickhead. I’d never seen anyone treat person worse. Teammates. Coaches. Fans. Mainly, though, the press. After every game, I’d witness (and sometimes partake in) the ritual from hell: Reporters would wait for Bonds to emerge from the shower (or the bathroom. Or the dining room. Or wherever else he could go to, I’m quite certain, intentionally prolong the nights of others), then watch as he’d sink down into his leather recliner. Bonds’ back would almost always be (again—intentionally, I’m certain) to the reporters. Hence, the pack would tiptoe up, quietly … meekly … pathetically. Bonds knew they were there. He had to have known—because the same shit happened every day. Inevitably, someone would say, “Uh, Barry …” He might turn around, might pretend to chat with someone else, might bob his head to music.

“Uh, Barry …”

“Barry, that home run you hit off Leiter …”

Bonds would answer—maybe. Or he’d shrug the home run off as nothing. Or he’d mumble, “Not talking today.” Or, every so often, he’d be gregarious and yappy. It all depended on the mood. His mood. The ritual was maddening and bullshit and maddening bullshit—made all the worse by the fact that he was a cheating sack of crap who was using all sorts of PED to live a lie.

I’ve never actually understood men like Tortorella and Bonds. Why would you go out of your way to make the lives of others more miserable? Why wouldn’t you want to help folks complete their tasks?