Several years ago Jeff Pearlman wrote a book about Barry Bonds. It wasn’t a flattering portrayal. While Pearlman says — and I believe him — that he intended to write a balanced book and sought out people who could say things that were complimentary about the all-time home run king, the fact was that there weren’t many to be found. It’s also the case that, if he’s being honest, and he usually is, Pearlman doesn’t care for Bonds himself overall and, among media folk, is among the more extreme anti-PED guys you’ll find.
All of which makes his interview with Bonds’ son Nicolai pretty darn interesting.
Nicolai Bonds is not himself a notable figure. And, as he admits himself, he doesn’t have a close relationship with his father. But even if the younger Bonds himself isn’t really newsworthy, I find both this interview and his answers notable because they both acknowledge that there is a personal aspect to the things written about sports figures and celebrities that probably should not be dismissed as meaningless or unimportant.
Pearlman, by doing this interview and asking the questions he asks seems to acknowledge that the stuff people like him write about people like Barry Bonds has some real world significance. They’re writing about human beings with feelings and families and, even if they feel obligated by facts or duty to write harsh truths or negative things, they are still responsible for the things they say to or about their subjects, at least on some level. At the very least, it seems to me to be an acknowledgment on Pearlman’s part that he does not necessarily assume his past subjects to be mustache-twirling villains who ceased to exist the moment he ripped them in print. There’s something important about that, I think, even if Pearlman may still conclude that Bonds is a sonofabitch.
As for Nicolai Bonds, he has a couple of long, thoughtful answers regarding the perception of his father. I find them particularly insightful for their mention of Bonds as “an entertainer” and what he perceives his father’s duty was to the fans, the media and the public at large. I think that Bonds’ conception of that — his dad owed Giants fans entertainment and the Giants themselves hard play and nothing more to anyone else — is pretty darn healthy. Far more healthy than the majority sentiment that athletes are role models and have some grand responsibility to raise your kids and theirs and to otherwise set some higher and better example than anyone else.
Anyway, a good read. Kudos for Pearlman being frank with his subject and his subject being frank with him.