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Two sides to every story from Bonds

For a few hours there, I really had my hopes up. There it was, the lead story on the front section of Monday's USA Today: Giants slugger Barry Bonds said he planned to retire after the 2006 baseball season, whether he broke Hank Aaron's career home run record or not.

I should have known better. Bonds can change his mind from day to day, or in this case, from news cycle to news cycle. Later on Sunday, Bonds recanted his original claim, telling MLB.com that he actually would play in 2007, assuming his balky right knee was in decent enough shape.

You never can tell with Bonds anymore. Two years ago, he told reporters in New York, "Half the stuff I say, I don't believe." He's giving himself too much credit. There's no reason to believe anything that comes out of his mouth. Bonds drips insincerity from every pore. If he told me the Earth was round, I'd want verification from outer space.

It's too bad Bonds couldn't simply go away for good. Then we'd be spared his phony, self-serving pronouncements, his puerile diatribes, his laughable attempts to pass himself off as a victim. We wouldn't have to watch his joyless pursuit of Aaron's record, amid persistent questions about his "unwitting" use of performance-enhancing drugs.

For a guy who hates the media, Bonds sure has a way of making news. It was around this time a year ago that he talked for the first time since being implicated in the BALCO scandal. He accused the media of picking on him because he wasn't a white hero, like Babe Ruth, diverting attention from the steroid issue.

Bonds said he was "playing psychological games with himself" when he told USA Today this would be his final season. He said he assumed the talk was off the record. That's a good one. What the newspaper calls a "wide-ranging interview," Bonds tries to pass off as a private chat.

Funny how someone with a profound mistrust of the media could be duped into baring his soul to a national newspaper. It sounds as if Bonds was searching for attention and understanding. He played every emotional card in his deck:

Bonds talked about wanting to spend more time with his son (family card). He said God would decide how many games he plays (religion card). He said he takes pain-killers and sleeping pills because of his surgically repaired knee (sympathy card). He said he goes to work "like every other American" (blue-collar card).

Of course, not every hard-working American has a 20,000-square-foot mansion across the road from Denzel Washington. Bonds is negotiating with ESPN to do a weekly TV show, which will permit the ESPN folks to visit his home and chronicle the humble existence of a hard-working baseball multimillionaire.

Bonds said his big mistake over the years was not allowing people to get to know him. It took him 21 years to figure that out? Now we'll get to know the real Barry through the lens of reality TV, in the same way a rapt America peeped into the lives of such cultural icons as Ozzy Osbourne, Donald Trump and Paris Hilton.

Sorry, but I don't need a more intimate look. The 20-year portrait is vivid enough. Bonds is a great baseball player and a colossal jerk, a wondrous all-around player who became a freakish power hitter through the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. He has 708 career home runs. He needs seven to pass Babe Ruth and 48 to pass Aaron for No. 1 all-time.

He cares about the record, and yet he doesn't care. Bonds hates attention, and yet he craves it. He loves baseball, but he's not having any fun. He might play more than one season, and he might not. He's 41, near the end of the line, and says he'd have no qualms about leaving the game without breaking Aaron's record.

If he really doesn't care about the record, and if the game is such a torture, he should quit now. He says he's tired of all the crap. For most American baseball fans, I suspect the feeling is mutual.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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