Author: Jeff Pearlman
There’s perhaps no better way to describe San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds: either you love him or you hate him. There’s no fence-riding on that. Former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman puts together a biography on Bonds, which is definitely eye-opening and entertaining. At least, much more so than the ill-advised “Bonds on Bonds” reality show ESPN released a while back.
Love Me, Hate Me is an act of in-depth investigative journalism. Pearlman interviewed 524 people, many of whom the author describes as having only one, small encounter with Bonds. Such in-depth reporting is to be commended. He left no stone unturned when trying to find the truth, “the soul of Barry Bonds,” as Pearlman describes it. And he found it.
The story of Barry Lamar Bonds begins in San Carlos, California, an affluent white suburb. Bonds’ father, Bobby, was putting together a fine career in the major leagues, and he was able to give Barry some of the finer things in life, like an education at the private school of Serra High School, which is known for producing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
However, Bobby wasn’t always a positive influence in Barry’s life. His father’s alcoholism, combined with him being a huge name, forced Barry to always live in his old man’s shadow. Coaches would always call him “Bobby Bonds’ kid” and reporters slipped in interviews, calling him Bobby. This led to an intense anger for Barry. He wanted to be known for himself, not because of who his father was. And whenever someone tried to befriend him, Barry would become wary, wondering if that person just liked Barry for his fame or for him. Many people described Barry as “an island,” someone who would always be by himself.
The story picks up with Barry’s time in high school, which was when he began to make a name for himself as a future star. Unfortunately, he was never known as a “team-first” guy, which was especially the case in football and basketball. While on the gridiron, seniors once stole his helmet, so Bonds went to a teammate and said, “You never play, let me have your helmet.” It was more of the same in basketball. Bonds would never practice hard and always seemed to loaf, but he would just be one of the better players at games.
From high school, Bonds moved to college, where, after breaking curfew on a road game, his teammates voted to kick him off the squad. The head coach, Jim Brock, then rigged the results to say no unanimous decision means Bonds should stay. The outfielder would remain a churlish individual and keep up his “me first” attitude.
From college, Pearlman takes readers to Pittsburgh and San Francisco, the two stops in Bonds’ professional career. In Pittsburgh, he repeatedly refused to listen to coaches, declined interviews with members of the media, and still did not get along with teammates. However, his worst act may have been how he treated fans (Bonds rarely signed autographs) and clubhouse attendants. In San Francisco, Pearlman depicts Giants’ owner Peter McGowan and the Giants as subservient to Bonds, and at time relying solely on Bonds’s website for information on their slugger through his many knee injuries.
And, of course, the topic of steroids is touched upon. Pearlman describes a scene in which Bonds is at Cincinnati Reds’ slugger Ken Griffey Jr.’s Orlando, Florida, home and Bonds is fed up with the media attention being paid to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. He says he’ll “start using the s---” in order to hit more home runs. According to the author, Bonds begins using whatever his trainer, Greg Anderson, was giving him. The author also touches upon several signs of questionable muscle growth, like the increase in head size, the fact that Bonds put together his best seasons past the age of 35, and growths of acne on his back. Pearlman takes a pretty hard stance that Bonds was a huge user of illegal performance-enhancing substances.
Love Me, Hate Me is an excellent example of sports journalism. Pearlman does a good job weaving 524 interviews into a biography about the most-talked about player in baseball. While Bonds did not submit to an interview, the book seems to be all-encompassing. It earns a three ball rating.
Four Balls: More than just what two men have when hanging out together, it means it is an exceptional book that truly earns a walk - straight to the local book store to get a copy.
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