Occasionally, life provides a moment when two people take to the dance floor; it's just another dance for them, but this time, this dance, they reveal who they are. On Sunday, Jeff Gordon won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway and passed Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series wins with a total of 77.
Talladega can be found in Talladega County, state of Alabama, about 50 miles east of Birmingham. Besides 15,000 Talladegites, the city is home to the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame, which, according to its website, is "a beautiful landscaped park that covers one full city block...open 365 days a year with free admission." Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube, lived there for awhile when he was a kid. Talladega College invites you to apply. And that's about it, except for Talladega Superspeedway, 12 miles north of town.
Built in 1969, the facility is a 2.66-mile tri-oval with 18-degree banking on the front stretch, 33-degree banking in the turns, and seats for 145,000 fans. Figure 185,000 on race day. It is the biggest, fastest track on the circuit and the place Dale Earnhardt Senior won ten NASCAR Cup races. Home ground.
So, on Sunday, fans greeted Gordon's victory (under caution), with what cranks might call, "subdued appreciation." They pelted Gordon's car with beer cans.
There had been trouble the previous week at Phoenix International Raceway. Gordon won there, too. He took a victory lap holding a replica of Dale Earnhardt Senior's black No. 3 flag out the car's window. Gordon had tied Earnhardt's record and was showing respect. But, fans weren't having any. Beer cans swarmed his car.
Showing the kind of class you have to be born with, Dale Earnhardt Jr. acknowledged Gordon's gesture, lauded it, and then asked everyone not to throw beer cans. Instead, he suggested they throw rolls of toilet paper. You have to admire a man who thinks like that.
But, next Sunday, when Gordon won and passed Daddy Earnhardt in victories -- at Talladega, no less -- fans threw beer cans that caused Gordon to go onto the dance floor and reveal who he is. "I thought Junior had more power," Gordon said. "I thought they'd throw toilet paper, which is what he asked them to throw. I saw, maybe, one roll."
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This story has moved into farce, which means I can finally enjoy it. Turns out Barry Bonds is having a very good year. Through May 1, he's batting .356 with 8 home runs. This makes him 13 home runs shy of Henry Aaron's record of 755.
No one able to open a refrigerator door believes Barry Bonds is clean. You might or might not care if he used steroids, but you know that he did. It is cheating, by the way. Without steroids, Bonds would be 100 to 150 home runs short of Aaron's record.
But, the man -- either by luck, skill, or more likely a combination thereof -- has played an epic cops-and-robbers game. Consider what he's gone through:
September 2003. Many kinds of cops raid BALCO Laboratories and the home of Bonds's personal trainer, Greg Anderson. The San Francisco Chronicle reports they seized documents that said Bonds was using steroids.
So, authorities have known about this for almost four years. You might remember it was a big deal back then, a crime so serious that the president of the United States talked about steroids during his 2004 State of the Union address.
Understanding the gravity of the crisis, federal prosecutors decided not to go after the super rich, super famous baseball stars who were using steroids, but to go after the criminal enterprise itself.
And, wouldn't you know, they got their men! Better, they got them without the muss and fuss of a trial and all the bulky evidence trials produce. Plea bargains were agreed to, and justice was metered out. BALCO vice president James Valent got probation. Steroids connect and Bonds's personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was sent to prison for three months! The kingpin, the grand evildoer, BALCO president Victor Conte, received a four-month prison sentence, and, in an act many thought was pure vengeance, got another four months in home confinement! Plus, Conte and Anderson are banned from owning firearms!
That about sums it up. Another victory for federal prosecutors. What's for lunch?
Then Beyond the Shadows was published in the spring of 2006. There is no way you can read that book and not be convinced that Bonds was using steroids. Much hub and bub ensues. Bonds, in his best move, sits out most of the 2006 season. Things quiet down, everybody goes back to sleep.
Now, Bonds is back, batting .356 and six weeks away from owning the most prestigious record in sports. I'm inclined to root for him. In fact, in a perfect world he would be indicted the day after he passes Aaron. While on steroids.