Barry Bonds is about to do a remarkable thing: Become the all-time home run king of Major League baseball without becoming a hero.
If anything, he's becoming less popular as he comes closer to breaking Hank Aaron's home run record while Aaron remains as popular as
Bonds' unpopularity is remarkable because baseball fans love home runs and people who hit lots of them. But many of us believe
Bonds cheated and that a lot of those balls that flew over the fence did it with help from steroids.
We don't like cheaters, even if we're tempted to fudge a bit ourselves. Present company excepted, of course. You won't believe this, but
some public relations professionals do their own version of steroids with their media measurement -- adding "multipliers" that have the effect
of increasing the claimed reach of their media coverage. For example, a commonly used multiplier assumes that all print materials have a common rate of
"pass-around" whereby every copy produced is read by an average of 2.5 people. Another assumes that certain large publications and popular magazines are
so well loved that we can safely multiply by 3.5, 8 or even 12 times the audited circulation figure.
The multipliers don't change the mix of positive, neutral and negative coverage. They just make the bars on the chart bigger -- like the one that
appears below. But I digress. Back to baseball.
Aaron retired with 755 career home runs. You didn't have to be a baseball fan to know when he hit number 715 to break the career record set by
Babe Ruth nearly 39 years earlier. It was a national event.
Between National Indfference and Hostility
Now, 31 years later, Bonds' run at Aaron's record is being greeted with something between national indifference and hostility.
Well, there is one group that isn't treating it with indifference -- the pitchers on the teams Bonds will be playing against between now and whenever
he hits homer number 756. They're paying attention because none of them wants the dubious distinction of being the
one who threw the pitch that turned into the record destined to be forever tainted.
For me, Bonds' run at the record means he's going to break the chapel window without earning the right to do it. Let me explain what I
When I was an eighth grader at St. Andrew's parochial school, we regularly played softball on the school playground.
We didn't have a fence to shoot for. Most of the time you got a home run by hitting the ball far enough that you could run around the bases
before someone from the other team could chase it down and get it back into play.
Our school building was at the far reaches of the "outfield." And there in center field was the second-story stained-glass window of the
private chapel where the nuns prayed each day.
For some reason, I decided I wanted to hit a home run long enough to make it all the way from home plate through that window. It was, in the words of
today’s corporate executives, a "stretch" objective. I don't remember anyone even hitting the building, let alone that second-floor
window. Nevertheless, I was determined to do it. And naive enough to believe I could.
Praying For A Break
I even said a few prayers, asking God to help me do it. Silly, I know. But I was 14 and figured maybe He'd think it was cool.
As it turned out, I never broke that window -- although there were a few times I hit the ball hard enough that it looked promising as the ball rose
toward center field with a high trajectory. They all fell short. Way short. But those hits made everyone's hearts skip a beat. Especially
No one else broke the chapel window, either. Just as well. In retrospect, I didn't have a prayer. Or, more precisely, my prayers didn't
have a prayer. After all, the nuns were praying (or so I supposed) that I wouldn't put a homer through their window. I think the nuns' prayers
outranked mine. They had more practice. They were a lot more serious about it. And they didn't have to spend time asking forgiveness for all those
impure thoughts that kept creeping into my head despite my efforts to keep them out.
It wasn't that I had anything against the window. I could easily have taken it out with a rock. The thought of doing that never even crossed my
mind. It was the idea of doing the impossible that made it so tantalizing. The nuns knew I wanted to do it. And if I'd ever succeeded, I think
they would have taken some satisfaction in the achievement -- after they got over the fact that it was broken.
Barry Bonds is about to break the chapel window. But it feels like he's putting a rock through it. And that's not satisfying at all. Even
an eighth grader knows that.
1Yahoo!News 5/8/2007 - 5/14/2007.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jerry Brown committed journalism for 20 years, but received a full pardon. He's been practicing
public relations for more than 20 years and plans to keep practicing until he gets it right -- which he hopes takes a long time because he likes what he
does. He specializes in strategy and message development, media relations and media training and writing (news releases, annual reporters, collateral,
etc.). He also writes the Monday Morning Media Minute, a free weekly media tip distributed by e-mail.
You can reach him at email@example.com / 303-781-8787.
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