In the brief life of this blog, I have been critical of ESPN in several ways. However, if I am going to be critical of them when they do something wrong, then I have to praise them when they do something right. And the thing they did right was in relation to their coverage of Barry Bonds.
Amidst all the coverage concerning Barry Bonds' breaking of Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, they dusted off a jewel of a documentary last week that gave insight into what Aaron went through when he set the record in 1974. Titled "The Long Winter of Henry Aaron," it originally aired on NBC in October 1973. NBC showed the documentary after the end of the 1973 season, which ended with Aaron only two home runs away from breaking Babe Ruth's record. Aaron had to wait an additional six months before breaking the record the following April.
Interviewer and host Tom Brokaw did an insightful interview with Aaron. The entire program did a great job of giving the viewer the flavor of what Aaron is like as a man and what he went through in breaking the record. The racist taunts, the death threats, and the dignity in which Aaron dealt with it were examined well. It's hard to believe that a person had to go through all this just to set a sport's record, but unfortunately, he had to.
I like looking back at old programs like this because it lets us experience the mood of the moment. Sometimes we can understand historical events better if we look at how they were originally reported. The historical impact of an event can sometimes be watered down over time, but watching this documentary helped bring focus to this subject.
It also allowed the viewer to compare and contrast Aaron and the man who is about to break his record. It is easy to take cheap shots at Barry Bonds so I won't do that. Let's just say I am glad that I got to see this documentary if for no other reason than it gave Aaron some much needed acclaim and publicity for the being the man he is.