For Giants fans, it's a thin line between love and hate for Bonds Print
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Sunday, 30 September 2007 23:39
MLB Headline News

 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Ask most Giants fans if they love or hate Barry Bonds and you'll get a confusing answer: Yes.
Throughout Bonds' career and the legal troubles associated with his rumored steroid use, Giants partisans were often portrayed as unquestioning supporters of the slugger.
This season, as he chased baseball's most important record, Bonds often thanked the fans of San Francisco for showing him love during a tough time.
However, Bonds only heard the voices of those people who could deny the troubling and persistent doubts regarding their star's achievements.
For most Giants' rooters, their feelings about the home run king's departure during his final days in orange and black were as complex as his personality. Relief mostly, mixed with some sadness and anger.
Fans here have had 15 seasons to marvel at Bonds' accomplishments on the field. He often made greatness seem routine and reached milestones almost every season.
Still, the silent majority saw the left fielder's legal troubles and prickly personality as a distraction from the game they love, a cold splash of reality in a place where we seek refuge from the real world. In conversations from Washington Square Park to barstools in Noe Valley, fans can recount their favorite Bonds moment off of the top of their head, and then give you a handful of reasons why they're happy to see him go.
``I think in many ways he is a challenge to all of us,'' said former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, who served from 1989-1992. ``On one hand we admire what he's done. The record. The performance. I think that the difficulty with Barry is we don't have all the facts. We don't know what went on. ... The last chapter has not been written.''
One of the most memorable moments that often goes unmentioned is when Bonds got his 500th career stolen base. He did it against the dreaded Los Angeles Dodgers, and the stolen bag put him into scoring position late in the game. He came around to score, and the Giants won.
Veteran Giants broadcaster Jon Miller, who grew up watching the team, remembered his favorite Bonds moment.
game? After that, he got dressed to see his dad in the hospital.''
Even with these great moments on the field, fans had to wear blinders not to be annoyed or embarrassed by the left fielder's behavior off the field. Certain things made fans cringe: the refusal to show up for team photographs and Bonds' insistence on a separate, secluded area in the locker room.
During his historic home run chase this year, staged events celebrating Bonds' achievements appeared to be packed with zealous defenders. Most fans stayed away.
Having the poster boy of the steroids era in baseball, whether the label was fair or not, added an unwelcome dimension to the baseball experience. The simple fun of the game was harder to focus on when all talk of the game disintegrated into a debate about drugs and morals.
As for Bonds' legacy in San Francisco, people are ready to forgive him. An apology and frank discussion of performance enhancing drugs in sports would go a long way.
``Until we've heard all he's going to say ... and if it turns out hundreds of players were also (doping), then it's a different situation from if there were many fewer. We don't know what happened in those years. We don't know what the context is,'' Vincent said.
In the end, after all the investigations are complete, Bonds could be fingered as a drug cheat. If so, he will probably be one of dozens, hundreds maybe, of steroid users in an era when records were shattered by men with superhuman strength. It may be that, in 20 years, Bonds will be understood as a product of his times, not as an influence on them.
Bonds' finale Wednesday night at the waterfront ballpark was a fitting end to an odd era. Fans showed up with ``We love you'' signs and Bonds stood alone in left field, with his name and No. 25 painted on the grass beneath him. He went 0-for-3, waved goodbye, and then left. He didn't even stay for the post-game tribute.
For most Giants fans, there was no disappointment in how the big goodbye went down. It was business as usual for their mercurial star.
 

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