Barry Bonds is to baseball as Vanilla Ice is to hip hop

by Sean Kenji Haynes

Before I begin I just want to make one statement. I really don’t care about, and have no sentimental connection to, Major League Baseball. I do respect the athletes for their love of the game but that’s about as far as it goes.

With that off my chest I must tell you that recently I’ve found myself caught up in the hype that seems to follow San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds wherever he may be, from the practice field to the ballpark to the press conference. He even has a reality TV show on ESPN!

For anyone who may be clueless, Barry Bonds sits in the No. 3 position on the all-time home run list, with No. 1 being Mr. Henry ‘“Hank’” Aaron. Sandwiched between Bonds and Aaron is Mr. George Herman ‘“Babe’” Ruth. And this is where the controversy begins.

For the past year or more it seems the baseball world and all that hold it holy have been in an uproar about this whole home run record thing. Steroid use is on the rise since the early ’80s, said to give the players who use them an unfair physical advantage over the players who don’t. Major League Baseball has known about this for years and done nothing because ‘— let’s face it ‘— the fans love the long ball. They buy the tickets and the even more lucrative merchandising. Broadcast contracts, endorsements, licensing and the rest of the business fill the udders of the cash cow that is Major League Baseball. So it is safe to say that steroids have helped the game at least in the financial and entertainment value aspect.

However, you have some baseball purists as well as some baseball racists who believe that no matter who does what in what era, Babe Ruth is and always will be the home run king.

I know what you’re thinking: Am I reading a hip-hop editorial or is this the transcript from a recently recorded installment of ‘“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’”?

Well my fellow hip-hop headz, fans of Major League Baseball and hip-hop do have one thing in common: We hate to feel cheated.

Do you remember Robert ‘“Vanilla Ice’” Van Winkle? He sold millions, broke all kinds of sales records and, at the height of his career, was touted as one of the best. I mean, come on’…. We know now, as we knew then, that Vanilla Ice is a sham. This guy got mega rich, winning awards and getting massive media attention while the hip-hop pioneers, my heroes like KRS-ONE, the Jungle Brothers and even, to some degree, the Beastie Boys, went ignored.

However, he opened industry eyes to the selling power of hip hop at a time when a policy of ‘“eyes wide shut’” adhered to the true artist in favor of a sellable package. He exploited something pure, but at the same time helped it to grow, helping to establish standards as well as delegate personal responsibility to protect the culture and to keep it aligned with the ideals by which it was conceived.

So, sorry to say to the baseball aficionados, you too must suffer with your most recent pariah who comes to you in the form of a 6-foot-2, 240-pound black man named Barry Bonds. But don’t worry baseball fans ‘— Vanilla Ice didn’t ruin hip hop; Barry Bonds can’t ruin baseball; and YES! Weekly didn’t ruin my dreams of getting published.

Take the bitter with the sweet.