Spring training is on the horizon, and a surprisingly jovial Barry Bonds lounges on his couch reading the latest issue of GQ magazine. “That’s bullshit right there man,” remarks the upbeat Bonds while reading that Terrell Owens one-upped him as the athlete most hated by his peers.

Sarah Royce
No, no, no, no … We totally believe you about the steroid thing. (AP PHOTO)

The seemingly careless Bonds is in stark contrast to the player we’ve loved to hate in the past years. As famous for his crushing bombs as he is for media feuds and a damaging steroid scandal to boot, Bonds has a chance to show off his many faces on “Bonds on Bonds,” ESPN’s new original series.

The idea of Bonds having his own reality show might seem preposterous. Why would a man who is notorious for not even giving an inch to journalists allow a team of cameramen to follow him around? Combine this with Bonds’s closing in on Babe Ruth’s career home run mark and a rejuvenated steroid-use investigation, and the whole situation seems a recipe for disaster.

While some would attempt to escape the media’s watchful eye at all costs in times like these, Bonds has gone in the other direction. He uses the show as a platform to tell his story the way he wants.

The inherent problem with all this is that Bonds has little to no credibility with most people. It’s undeniable that the man has undergone drastic physical changes throughout his career. With allegations coming from every direction, his words are not exactly gospel.

With this in mind, the producers wisely included more than just Bonds denying steroid allegations for an hour – in fact, he never does. Between documenting his everyday routines, the show delves into previously untouched areas of his personal life.

Bonds speaks candidly about his father Bobby Bonds: a baseball star in his own day. He talks about the heavy alcoholism he witnessed around the Giants clubhouse as a young boy, and his father’s own personal battle with drinking. He also cites his father’s mentally abusive coaching methods as his fuel to prove professional naysayers wrong and excel in baseball.

Bonds’s emotional roller coaster – fabricated or not – is the most provocative and yet questionable aspect of the show. At one point in the pilot, he talks about the hate mail and malicious phone calls he receives on a regular basis from total strangers. While Bonds has always maintained that he doesn’t care what the outside world thinks of him, onscreen he seems phased by the public’s outcry, eventually breaking down as he opens up about the damage the press has done to him and his family and his fear of not letting those close to him down.

While this is compelling to a certain extent, you can’t help but think that much of this was cultivated by the train-wreck that is Barry Bonds.

Regardless of this new look, the viewer might be averse to the show simply because they don’t trust or care for the distant Giants slugger. But those who give Bonds a chance will find an athlete unlike any other. And with Ruth and Aaron’s records in range, the show promises to be an enticing, if a bit skewed, look at one of contemporary America’s most controversial sports figures.

TV Review: 3 out of 5 stars

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