Friday, March 24, 2006

Roger Maris Fills In For Charlie Rose

The television studio was dark, the round table lit from overhead studio lights. Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire sat next to each other on one side of the round table, an empty seat on the other. They could barely detect the three large television cameras on hydraulic pedestals each manned by, well, a female operator with a headset. Three big cameras, three rail thin women, thought Barry Bonds as he cupped his hands over his eyes to shield the bright lights. This was public television, so of course they had women camera operators. Of course, they were all white. Progressiveness goes only so far, he thought. Barry was calm, unlike the fidgety Mark McGuire sitting next to him. Each wore dark suits with ties, a result of the advice of Barry’s public relations advisor and Mark’s wife. Barry had advisors, lawyers, handlers, PR people and body guards. Mark McGuire had his family. Retirement can do that. Barry was a player.

“Where’s Charlie?” asked McGuire.

“They do that, Mark. The media makes you wait. It’s a power thing,” said Bonds.

“But Charlie Rose? He’s not really like the regular media,” said McGuire.

“Don’t kid yourself. Rose thinks he is somehow above it all. He ain’t. He’s got it easy, in fact, sitting in that chair, quietly discussing things, throwing softballs. He’s going to ask us about you know what. But watch. He’ll do it with respect,” said Bonds.

Walking into the light was a man wearing a New York Yankees uniform with a buzz cut. He sat down in Charlie Rose’s chair. McGuire gulped. Bonds stared, frozen. Bonds then looked around the studio for some kind of affirmation that he was indeed seeing what he was seeing.

“Hi, boys,” said Roger Maris.

“What the—,” Bonds could not finish the words.

“Mr. Rose is late. So they thought they would send me in to start up a chat,” said Maris.

“You are one of my idols, Mr. Maris,” said McGuire.

“Would you zip it, Mark. This is not Roger Maris. Roger Maris is dead.” Bonds turns to Maris.

“You’re some actor. The network has sent you here to see how we react.” Bonds is getting excitable.

“You guys are taping this, right,” Bonds says loudly to the darkness where the large video cameras stood like sentinels.

“Barry. Barry. Listen to me. I am Roger Maris. It’s me. The real deal. Hey, I am nothing special. Just a kid from the Midwest who was the wrong kid at the right place at the right time. And I just want to say that I think you have the legitimate home run record. The press tried to destroy me, and in many ways they did. And the press is trying to destroy you. And they don’t much care for you either, Mark,” said Maris.

“Well, I sort of had it the best of all of us. Everyone was rooting for me,” said McGuire.

“Yeah, you fucking had it great, man. It pissed me off when like no one noticed I hit seventy-three home runs, and they were jumping all over themselves when you hit seventy,” said Bonds.

“Well, it was because I broke Roger’s record, that stood for thirty-seven years,” said McGuire.

“Oh, fuck that. They hated Roger because Roger hated the press. And they hate me because I hate the press. And besides, you had Sosa, a black man, chasing you. Of course the media’s going to root for you.” said Bonds.

“Look, guys, it is a strange thing how baseball works. That number 61 meant a lot to me, but it also destroyed something in me. I really don’t care whether you guys took steroids or anything else to enhance your performance. Hell, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Mickey was drinking and having affairs. Maybe those things enhanced our performances. I don’t know. But it’s the same old same old. They will cut you down, they will argue for giving you guys asterisks. And maybe you will get them. But remember Mark, that 70 is yours and Barry, that 73 is yours. They can try to take it away. But in the end, they can’t.” Roger was sober and calm as he spoke these words.

“It’s different, today, Roger. They are trying to crucify me,” said Bonds.

“Actually, guys, I disagree,” said McGuire. “I think the most honest record in this room is Roger’s 61. Look, I took that steroid. It made me stronger. I don’t think I could have done it without it. And you too, Barry,” said McGuire.

“Fuck you, McGuire. You know nothing about me. You know nothing about what I have done or haven’t done. My 73 is honest,” Bonds said angrily.

“Boys, this is what the media really loves. It loves to see us fight and hate each other,” Maris said. “I got to go. I am on loan for just this amount of time. Bye guys, and good luck,” said Maris. Maris stood and walked into the blackness beyond where the studio lights cut off.

“That was weird, man. That guy really looked like Roger Maris,” said Bonds.

“He’s a great man, Barry. Roger Maris is a great man,” said McGuire.

“Yeah, well, so are we. So are we,” said Bonds. “Now where the fuck is Charlie Rose.”

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