Back from a brief post-March Madness blog break, just in time to notice that, despite the griping and moaning about them, reality sports shows are worth the time and hype networks put into them.
I pointed out in a column last week that I would be watching Bonds on Bonds as often as possible, simply because there's no better subject for that type of show in sports today. The writing brethren have pretty much gone out of their way to ignore or rip the idea, and it's hard not to think that the anger comes mostly from the fact that Bonds went out of his way his entire career to antagonize us; now that he's spoon-feeding us access, we weren't going to give him the satisfaction of watching it. I've always been of the opinion that the last thing fans, readers and the like care about is the trouble the media has doing its job. Not everyone shares that opinion, though, which seems to be why the Bonds series on ESPN has rubbed so many nerves raw.
Anyway, that all crossed my mind tonight when, after seeing the family for Easter, coming home to watch the Wizards clinch a playoff berth and getting my Sopranos fix (vomit-free for the first time in three weeks, thank goodness), I flipped over to the Giants-Dodgers game on ESPN. With all the options I had, there was only one reason to turn it on, and I finally had to admit it to myself: I wanted to see what happened when Bonds batted. It was Dodger Stadium, it was the west-coast version of Yankees-Red Sox, and it was Jon Miller on the mike - but, seriously, it was Bonds and the traveling circus. Sure enough, he was hit with a pitch - retaliation, I soon discovered, for Jeff Kent being beaned the half-inning before - and then was taken out of the game. He gestured toward someone in (or near) the dugout as he left, and the field mike picked up this incredible stream of profanity directed at Bonds, apparently from a fan.
That all kept Bonds' season-long homerless streak alive, reminded everyone that his body is breaking down before our eyes, revealed again how much hatred opposing fans have for him, and ratcheted up the tension for whenever he goes to the plate again. And you really, seriously, want nothing to do with this whole story? C'mon.
I was thinking about reality show topics in sports earlier today as I wrote the column that runs Monday morning. The bulk of it is about the Duke lacrosse scandal, but it's tied largely to Kobe Bryant's situation two years ago in Colorado. I'm sure I'll find out soon if the readers bought my point about the similarities between the two cases.
Meanwhile, there will be much more opportunity to write about Kobe in the coming weeks, and much of what we see of him will be viewed through the lens of those events in Eagle. He has made a point to steer clear of the issue in the increasing number of interviews he's given, like in the L.A. Times last week and in the current Sports Illustrated (as usual, subscriber access only). The Times' outstanding NBA writer, Mark Heisler, expanded on that in Sunday's Times.
Kobe's still a uniquely divisive figure, to put it mildly, and all the emotions about him that people might have been holding in since he broke up the Lakers two summers ago and he faded from the limelight somewhat, are sure to bubble back to the surface as his visibility rises at the start of the playoffs.
Which brings me to my ultimate point: the greatest reality TV sports show of all time, I will always be convinced, would have been about the 2003-04 Lakers, the season in which Kobe played with the Eagle trial cloud over his and everyone else's head, among several other plots and subplots.
Of course, it could be that the idea of a show like that is better than the actual show, which might end up being the case with Bonds on Bonds. But you'd be crazy not to be curious about what happens next. This week, for instance, you really have to wonder how he's going to talk his way around the perjury story. He may disappoint you. He'll probably anger you. He might surprise you. Why take the chance that you'd miss something good, even something that's going to get you good and ticked off? I pretty much assume that anything I read about Kobe is going to infuriate me (and the SI article gets the job done), but I read it anyway.
The bottom line? Devoting a reality show to people you like or admire is a waste of time, film and electricity. People like Barry Bonds and Kobe Bryant are the reason the genre was invented.