For something that mostly operates on a plane outside of anything resembling reality, it's amazing how often they become a microcosm of what's going on in society at large.
It's happening more in Barry Bonds' chase of Hank Aaron than I think any of us wanted to realize.
For years -- ever since we realized 755 was going to be within the reach of a man many believe to have cheated the sport with prolific steroid use that matched his prodigious home runs -- we assumed this was an issue of Big Bad Barry Bonds against the overwhelming court of opinion rooting for him to fail.
We'll make no such assumptions any more. A recent poll found that only 52 percent of baseball fans hope Bonds doesn't break the record, even though 73 percent of them think he used steroids. Beyond that:
Race plays a unique role. Black fans in the survey are more than twice as likely to want Bonds to break Aaron's record (74 percent to 28 percent), and 37 percent of black fans think Bonds used steroids, compared to 76 percent of white fans.As Jayson Stark points out, this takes a lot of commonly held beliefs about Bonds' chase and turns them on their head.
Blacks are nearly twice as likely to think Bonds has been treated unfairly (46 percent to 25 percent). Why? The survey found that 41 percent of black fans think this is due to the steroids issue, 25 percent think it's because of his race, and 21 percent blame Bonds' personality.
For whites who think Bonds has been treated unfairly, 66 percent blame steroids. Virtually none blame race.
As for me? I'm still not sure how I feel about all of it. Maybe it's because I've been waiting until the moment actually comes before passing judgement; like a lot of sports fans, I find myself conflicted between awe and disappointment. Maybe I'll have more tangible emotions when it actually does happen.
Until then, I'll continue to be fascinated by how it all plays out.