for Barry Bonds
We had to fill him up with the feats of mythical giants—Zeus and Goliath,
"Hammerin' Hank" and "The Babe." We had to fill him up with the where-
were-you-whens? The fictitious baseball works by masters like Roth
or DeLillo. We had to fill up his trophy case, his endorsement deals.
Had to fill up the Jumbotron with his image, the ballpark with our bodies,
the newspaper columns with box-scores, OPSs and Slugging Percentages—
fill them with the details of his daily performance considered by rights
to be in the public domain. Used him to fill awkward silences
over dinners with our partners' fathers, our granddads, clients—
inhuman feats to bring up as we ironed out our own human details.
We had to fill him up with fake wars, fake breasts, fake reports.
Fill him up with the false sense of affirmation that men of a certain stature existed
well beyond the pale. We had to fill him up with our own hard luck,
our nine-to-five jobs, our paltry salaries. Then we had to fill up his bank
account as we paid for the soaring prices of tickets, jerseys and hot dogs,
lining his pockets by filling the stands for each and every game. We had
to fill him up with scientific advances, bad advice, tough choices, then
fill him up again with what we would have done, the decisions our senses
of decency, of respect for the game's history would have compelled us
to make. When he didn't return the wild rounds of applause, we had to
fill him up with our loathing. We had to fill him up with test results
and government-sanctioned inquiries, just to make sure we were able
to set the record straight. And after we filled him up almost to bursting
we finally had to let him go, as a child, indifferent, lets go of a balloon
in a parking lot, and watches the asterisk
beside his own name floating away.
From Earworm (2011) by Nick Thran.