“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.”

Heywood Broun

By now, the drumroll has faded, and the murmuring, rippling echoes of astonishment have started to subside. The headlines have been bold, blaring, unflinching. A bitter pill to swallow, an earth-shattering revelation. Barry Bonds, the veritable Olympus on the baseball landscape, has confessed—he was using steroids.

Do you feel that gut punch, that aching twist in your chest? The sky seems to have cracked open, raining disappointment down upon the world of professional sports—and even more so—on the game of baseball. In a plot twist more gripping than a Hollywood screenplay, Bonds claims ignorance. He asserts he didn’t know he was imbibing the forbidden fruit. He didn’t realize he was injecting his veins with dishonor.

Just think about it for a moment—can you believe it? It’s almost like walking on a bed of nails and claiming you thought they were rose petals. But that’s the narrative we’ve been handed.

Over the weekend, I sat down with an oddly titled—but inspirational film: “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius.” It painted the vivid, heart-stirring journey of the legendary golfer, Bobby Jones. For those uninitiated, Bobby Jones was to golf what Mozart was to music—a virtuoso.

His story wasn’t just about winning championships or breaking records. It was about embodying the game, embracing failures, and learning from them. It was about valuing personal integrity, over and above the temptation of fame and fortune…or at least this is how the movie portrays him. 

With the world at his feet, Bobby Jones decided never to turn professional. He could have amassed great wealth, lived the high life—but he chose a path less traveled. He played not for the glittering trophies or the fat paychecks, but for a simple reason: the love of playing.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to demonize financial rewards. Talent deserves to be recognized, and athletes deserve their fair share. Yet, the story of Bobby Jones is a stark reminder of a forgotten ethos—a legacy that’s still shining like a North Star in the world of sports.

Sadly, I fear, the same cannot be said about Barry Bonds. Fast forward 70 years, I shudder to think about his legacy, about the stories that will be told about him.

A poignant line from the film has been echoing in my mind, “Money will one day destroy sports.” As a diehard sports fan, it stings, it leaves a bitter taste. It’s like watching your favorite painting fade, lose its vibrant colors. It’s an acknowledgment of the moral corrosion seeping into the bedrock of professional sports, turning them into crumbling sandcastles.

The lust for fame and fortune—that insatiable thirst—seems to have twisted the moral compass of many, leading them astray into the wilderness. The revelation about Bonds and his steroid use, whether it costs him his records or not, is merely a symptom of a much larger malaise.

Perhaps his records will forever bear the infamous asterisk, a symbol of dishonor. But, even then, the real casualty, the deepest wound, is much more profound— the loss of integrity. 

The disappointment is as bitter as a winter’s night, a stinging reminder of the tarnished beauty of the sports we so dearly love.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.