Popular in fiction for the past several hundred years has been the motif of a “Christ figure” or a Christ-like figure. This character, obviously, shares any of a number of traits with the Biblical Jesus Christ. Some of the more prominent traits taken from Christ are:
Performance of miracles/Possession of divine qualities – The character will have the ability to perform seemingly impossible acts, and/or have talents that are seemingly divine, most commonly prophecy or healing.
Display of forgiveness/kindness/mercy/justice – The character will exercise wisdom in his/her judgement.
Association with outcasts – The character will be a member of–oftentimes, a leader of–a group of people who are persecuted, or despised. Whether they group “deserves” to be despised is irrelevant.
Martyrdom – the character will be attacked, and often killed, for what he is. This death is sometimes, though not always, accompanied by resurrection.
I find it interesting that a number of these qualities can–thanks to the works of the self-righteous media–be found in one Barry Lamar Bonds, who I believe is a left fielder of some repute for the San Francisco Giants.
Barry Lamar Bonds is a widely despised fellow. Oh, there are plenty of reasons why. He’s been known as a bit of a prima donna for his entire life. Of course, so has Ken Griffey, Jr. Bonds came into the league with a bit more sneer than Griffey (though not much more), and he also came with that earring which, in 1986, got him labeled as a “bad” or even “dangerous” person. Griffey, meanwhile, had a young face and looked friendly enough that sportswriters ignored his similarly arrogant, selfish behavior, while harping Bonds about his.
Of course, then Junior got traded and he got hurt, and we all came to pity him, recalling only his “heydey” in which he made wonderful home run stealing catches and hit millions of home runs and smiled all the time, etc. Barry, too, ran like the wind and slugged millions of home runs, but he was more openly sullen than Griffey, and he had that earring, so whoever played the role of Jay Mariotti in the late 1980s had to write mean, nasty, articles despising Barry. Oh, and then Barry got traded, and what happened? He got much bigger, and, amazingly, much better at ball-whacking. And so, when steroid controversy began to swirl, and Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro went into Witness Protection and Sammy Sosa stopped speaking English, and Jason Giambi stopped being good, for a while, there left only Bonds. Bonds, who only spoke English, and was challenging baseball’s “most beloved” records, and nobody liked already–all the attention came to him. His antics, his selfishness, his cheating. Especially, his cheating.
[Now, it’s probably worth saying right now, that I haven’t read Game of Shadows, though Mrs Thursday has, and when she did, she was intolerable to speak to, as she became angered with all athletes everywhere for their cheating ways, and blah blah blah. Now, even though I haven’t read this infamous book, I believe that Barry Bonds used steroids about as strongly as I can believe anything for which I have no evidence whatsoever. I also don’t particularly care that he, or anyone else did them. Baseball has been a cheater’s game for 150 years. This doesn’t make what Bonds did “right”. It just means that I don’t view his actions any more egregiously than I view the rumored actions of Whitey Ford, Gaylord Perry, or the Bossard family groundskeepers.]
So, let’s consider Barry through the lens of the literary Christ figure:
Barry is capable of miraculous feats–he’s the oldest starting position player in baseball, and he’s still one of, if not the, best. He reaches base safely far more often than anyone else. He slugs more than just about anyone, while playing half his games in a stadium designed, essentially, to thwart a lefty slugger.
Bonds is the figurehead for the so-called “steroid epidemic”. That group of steroid using all-stars: Giambi, Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, etc: Bonds is head and shoulders above the lot of them. The Mitchell Investigation has been called a Barry Bonds Witchhunt. Barry is, without a doubt, deeply viewed as part of this despised group of steroid users.
And Bonds is getting killed for it. For every story written about Giambi, or Guillermo Mota, or Jason Grimsley, there are ten about Bonds. And for every story like this one (that is, that is not attacking Bonds, but instead is taking either a neutral or positive view of him) there are a hundred vicious pieces. If anyone in baseball is getting martyred for steroids, it’s Barry.
Now, a display of forgiveness or kindness? I don’t know about that. Personally, I think Barry often comes off as funny and thoughtful in interviews where the interviewer is respectful and without agenda–much as Peter Gammons was last night when interviewing Bonds during the Home Run Derby. But Bonds will get angry and sullen quickly to the people who are obviously there to stir up controversy. Barry is often capable of kindness with people who are kind to him, but he’s long past the end of his patience with almost anyone else.
But who knows? The story of Barry Lamar Bonds isn’t over yet. He’ll play the rest of this year, and perhaps longer. But someday he’ll retire as the best player since Babe Ruth, if not of all time, and steroid controvery or not, he’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame. His speech will not be something to be missed, I think. After all, redemption usually works best on the grandest possible stage.