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Joseph Maar
Barry Bonds
Writing Credits:

Poised to break Hank Aaron's legendary home run record, baseball star Barry Bonds should be headed toward an indisputable legacy in American sports. But questions regarding his potential use of steroids have, despite his stellar stats, put his reputation into question. This episode of ESPN's Sports Century illuminates this 13-time all-star, from the controversy surrounding him, to the incredible records that have given him his fame, including an awe-inspiring 73 home runs in a single season.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 43 min.
Price: $16.95
Release Date: 6/5/2007

• Five Featurettes


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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SportsCentury Greatest Athletes: Barry Bonds (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 6, 2007)

Arguably the most controversial athlete in sports today, Barry Bonds inspires many extreme opinions with little room between the poles. Matters will only get worse as he approaches Hank Aaron’s home run record. A documentary called SportsCentury Greatest Athletes: Barry Bonds provides a look at the ballplayer’s career.

Like most shows of this sort, Bonds presents a mix of archival footage and interviews. We hear from Bonds, father Bobby Bonds, brother Bobby, Jr., sister Cheryl Dugan, father’s friend Phil Lewis, ESPN analysts Harold Reynolds, John Kruk and Peter Gammons, NBC’s Bob Costas, radio hosts Ed Randall and Ralph Barbieri, high school teammates Bobby McKercher and Mike Roza, former ASU baseball coach’s wife Patsey Brock, ASU broadcaster Tom Dillon, college teammates Charles Scott, ASU JV coach Ed Yeager, Pirates broadcasters Steve Blass, Jim Rooker and Lanny Frattare, Pirates trainer Kent Biggerstaff, reporters Chris Haft, Henry Schulman, Thomas Boswell, Mark Whicker, Paul Meyer, Ray Ratto, Raj Mathai, Mark Gonzalez, Bill Simmons, John Perrotto, Nancy Gay, Mark Fainaru-Wada, Dan Connolly, Gwen Knapp, Michael Wilbon, Ann Killion, Daniel Brown, Josh Suchon, Nick Peters, Jeff Bradley, John Rawlings, Steve Springer, and Lance Williams, ballplayers Tony Gwynn, Tom Glavine, Willie Mays, Eric Davis, Andy Van Slyke, Lloyd McClendon, John Smiley, Bobby Bonilla, Rick Sutcliffe, Bob Walk, Sid Bream and Larry Dierker, managers Jim Leyland and Dusty Baker, former Pirates publicist Jim Lachimia, high school coach David Stevens, Pirates coach Bill Virdon, baseball historian Nick Acocella and Elias Sports Bureau’s Steve Hirdt.

We see how Bonds’ relationship with father Bobby shaped him and other early influences as well as Bonds’ growth as a player and elements of his personality. We follow him through college and into the major leagues, where we watch his development and a mix of problems along the way. Bonds’ fiery side comes out along with controversies even before we hit the issues related to steroids. The final third of the program looks at Bonds’ late career evolution into a massive power hitter, his 73-home-run season and the dark cloud connected to that. It also deals with his father’s death and its impact.

It’s impossible to examine Bonds and not have a strong opinion. Personally, I think it’s very likely he used steroids starting around 2000 or so, but I also don’t think that should completely erase his career accomplishments. Even if Bonds never used any drugs of that sort, he’d still be high on the list of all-time greatest ballplayers. He was a lock for Cooperstown well before he broke home run records, but too many people act as if he would’ve been a nobody without the ‘roids.

Ironically, though his supposed steroid use has vilified him among many fans, it’s almost done the opposite for me. No, I certainly don’t condone what he may have done, and I think it’s sad that we can’t trust the records put up by him and other potentially tainted sluggers. However, I really do get tired of all the Bonds bashing, largely for the reasons I mentioned in the last paragraph. He may be a jerk and he may be a cheat, but he still deserves to be regarded as one of the greatest players to ever hit the diamond.

This documentary certainly covers various sides of the arguments, as it features those who seek to defend Bonds and those who appear to want to throw him under the bus. Actually, the comments never come across as particularly extreme on either end, but we can pretty readily identify Bonds partisans and foes.

The documentary suffers from its relatively short length and the high number of participants. It offers comments from so many different people that it reduces most of them to soundbites. This increases the danger that we get information taken out of context, especially when the show deals in more controversial realms. Many aspects of the program – Bonds’ relationship with his famous father, his early career, his home run output, his alleged steroid use – could easily fill a full-length show on their own, so the inclusion of all of these in one 43-minute piece means that we fail to find depth.

That becomes a bigger problem given the program’s erratic nature. Half of it seems intended to glorify Bonds’ accomplishments, but the other half appears eager to bury him as a cheat and an all-around jerk. Given the nature of Bonds’ personality and career, it may become inevitable that almost any documentary would show such a split personality. As I mentioned, Bonds is a polarizing figure, so discussions of him are never simple. However, the piece’s brevity exacerbates the problems and means that the tone jumps radically without much warning.

Neither a distinctive career retrospective or a hard-hitting take on Barry Bonds’ controversial side, this documentary proves entertaining but ultimately disappointing. It just doesn’t last long enough to give us the detail needed for a truly satisfying program. I think it’s a good little teaser but not a top-notch documentary.

The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio C-/ Bonus C+

SportsCentury Greatest Athletes: Barry Bonds appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a consistently unattractive presentation.

Sharpness came across as mediocre at best. Close-ups presented passable definition, but everything else looked soft and rough. Lots of jagged edges appeared along with some shimmering. As for source flaws, video artifacts were apparent much of the time, but other defects didn’t cause problems.

Though I didn’t expect vivid colors, I thought they’d look more dynamic than what I saw here. The show suffered from a bland brown murkiness that meant all the hues looked flat and drab. Blacks were muddy as well, and shadows tended to be dense and opaque. This was a disappointing presentation.

As for the Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack of Greatest Athletes, it proved perfectly ordinary. The soundfield lacked much pizzazz. It offered general stereo presence for the music and broadened effects out to the sides and rears in a bland manner. There wasn’t much definition or delineation to these elements, as they stayed somewhat vague.

Audio quality was acceptable and no better. Speech could be a little brittle, but the lines were intelligible and reasonably concise. Music stayed in the background, so it didn’t get much room to shine. Those elements sounded clear but didn’t feature great range. Effects were another minor consideration, and they were fine for what they attempted. This was a consistently average mix.

In terms of extras, we find five featurettes here. Taken together, they fill a total of 27 minutes, 17 seconds. These include “I Believe That Maybe No More Than Two…” (2:42), “I Met Willie When I Was a Baby” (4:50), “Everyone Knew Barry Because…” (6:28), “You’ve Got to Rent a Car” (6:23) and “He’s Gonna Tell You the Truth” (6:57). Boy, are those terrible, non-descriptive titles! We get remarks from Bonds, father Bobby Bonds, high school teammates Bobby McKercher, Mike Roza and Ray McDonald, ballplayers Don Slaught, Jim Gott, and Lloyd McClendon, Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass, Pirates trainer Kent Biggerstaff, Pirates coach Warren Sipp, and reporters Paul Meyer, Bill Plaschke, John Rawlings, John Perrotto, and Mark Gonzales.

The clips look at Bonds’ personality and popularity with teammates, Bonds’ childhood among baseball royalty and his early playing days, living up to his dad’s legend and related concerns, the meaning of his earring, and his relationship with the media. These clips focus on personal areas and not on Bonds’ career accomplishments. That makes them quite engaging and fulfilling as they provide extra breadth to our understanding of Bonds as a person.

Too bad SportsCentury Greatest Athletes: Barry Bonds itself stands as such a spotty show. Actually, it’s entertaining but it’s simply much too short to summarize such a complex subject. The DVD presents weak visuals, mediocre audio, and a few interesting extras. Those with an interest in Barry Bonds might want to rent it, but don’t expect a deep program.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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