An open letter to Hank Aaron,
I really wish I didn't have to say what I'm about to say, but as my friend Branford Marsalis once told me, "Speak the truth and shame the devil." Hopefully you are sitting down when you read this. OK, here it goes: Hank Aaron, you are a hater! That's right Hank, you're a full-fledged, bona fide, 100 percent playa hater of the highest order. There, I said it. What a relief.
I was hoping you would come to your senses and realize how important it is for you to show Barry Bonds some love right now, in spite of whatever misgivings you might have about your home run record being broken. Hank, I wanted you to take the high road. But, no, you decided that you would, in essence, point a huge extended middle finger in Bonds' direction. As they say in Detroit, "If you don't start no s---, won't be none started." Well since you took it there, you leave me no choice.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term "playa hater," Hank, let me pull your coat. A playa hater is someone who harbors extreme jealously and animosity toward someone else's success, especially if that person's success overshadows his own. As Puff once said on Biggie's track "Playa Hater," "You see, there are two kind of people in the world today. We have the playaz and we have the playa haters." Well, Hank, your refusal to recognize Bonds' accomplishments clearly demonstrates that you are in the latter camp.
Was Aaron sending Bonds a message back at the 2004 Home Run Derby?
Stop hiding behind this steroid garbage, Hank. Your real motives are a bit transparent here. First, you said you didn't want to travel to see Bonds break your record, but then you end up traveling to Puerto Rico? C'mon Dawg, that ain't pimpin! You are the same man who once forgave John Rocker for his vicious verbal sins, after originally saying that his comments had made you sick, but now you can't give Bonds a break? You are hurting my heart, Hank. You are no longer my favorite Mobile, Ala., native, either. I have taken that title and bestowed it on the rapper Rich Boy; throw some D's on it, indeed!
The streets have lost respect for you too, Hank. You once had street cred, just "on the strength," as they say. You were Big Bank Hank to us. The fact that you had to endure so much hatin' yourself on your way to breaking Babe's record meant you always had much love in the streets. No more, though. Don't get me wrong, Bonds isn't the most street credible cat. For one, there's not enough bass in his voice. But in spite of that, hip-hop still loves an anti-hero and Bonds most certainly fits that bill.
If Bud Selig doesn't show his face then that's one thing. In some ways Selig's absence would further Bonds' status as an anti-hero. But even Selig softened his stance and started attending Bonds' games. So Hank, you're the last remaining holdout. As Eddie told Priest in "Super Fly," "You better come on in, man!"
Hank, I'm not asking you to kiss the area of Bonds' lower backside where people have suggested he injected steroids. I'm just asking you not to get caught up in all this drama. Make an appearance, shake his hand, whisper to him that you think he is a "big water head boy" and then once out of sight go wash your hands if you want to. Just don't let yourself be used by people who don't have your best interests at heart. Some of these same people once wished you ill will as you were about to surpass Babe and now they're acting like they love you so much. Don't believe the hype. This change of heart seems just a bit disingenuous to me.
I'm asking you one last time, Hank, please reconsider. This is not a good look. You have left Bonds hanging and this is a crime. History will frown upon your selfish actions, Hank. Put down that glass of haterade that you've been drinking and get on the next plane headed in Bonds' direction. Or else, prepare yourself for the inevitable: having your ghetto pass revoked.
I know you and a lot of other older African-Americans such as Bill Cosby don't like us hip-hop heads. I know you think we are taking the race backward, and with Flavor Flav getting so much attention these days it's getting harder to argue that point, but give us a break. No, we did not get attacked by dogs and water hoses back in the day. No, Bonds has not gone through what you went through. We know this. But times have changed. We recognize your struggles, but we need you to recognize ours too. This is the era of "mo' money, mo' problems," Dawg, and your refusal to acknowledge Bonds is one of those problems right now.
Hank, I hope you take this in the spirit it was intended. I didn't want to call you out. Really. But your actions, or lack thereof, about this whole Bonds thing are just straight up hatin', pure and simple. So do yourself a favor, stop hatin' and get your mind right, Brotha. 'Cause if you free your mind, I guarantee, your ass will follow.
The Notorious Ph.D.
Dr. Todd Boyd, a columnist for Page 2, is an author, media commentator, and professor of critical studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His next book, "The Notorious Ph.D.'s Guide to the Super Fly '70s," will be published this month.