Barry Bonds and Jaromir Jagr: What to Do With this Hatchet? by @ChrisRBarron



There are probably no two more hated and polarizing sports figures in recent Pittsburgh sports history like Barry Bonds and Jaromir Jagr.  For a time, both of them dominated their respective sports, while sporting Pittsburgh jerseys; and both of them left Pittsburgh in an acrimonious fashion.

From 1990 to 2001, Jaromir Jagr won two Stanley Cups, 4 Ross Trophies, and a Hart all while sporting a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey.  Jagr led the league in scoring 4 years in a row, and in those dark years with Mario sidelines, Jags was arguably the greatest player in hockey.

From 1986 to 1992, Barry Bonds took his team to two National League Championship series and won two MVP awards all while sporting a Pittsburgh Pirates jersey.  Bonds was a legit 5 tool talent who made the Pirates relevant again and was arguably the greatest player in baseball over a three year span.


For all of Jagr's unquestioned ability on the ice, the young star had a troubled relationship with Pittsburgh, in particular the Pittsburgh sports press, and repeatedly asked to be traded near the end of his time in Pittsburgh - a wish the Penguins finally granted when they shipped him off to the Washington Capitals.

For all of Bonds unquestioned ability on the field, the young superstar was a notorious crank, a player unliked by many of his own teammates, and someone who Pirates manager Jim Leyland once famously said he would rather lose without than win with him.  Bonds decision to leave the Pirates and sign with the San Francisco Giants coincided with the beginning of a 20-year losing streak for the once proud Buccos.



There are plenty of similarities between the two young stars and obviously plenty of differences - to Jagr's credit, no one has ever accused him of cheating or steroid use. 

One thing they certainly have in common is the debate among Pittsburgh sports fans about what to do with the hatchet with these two former greats?  Bury the hatchet or continue to carry it?

I am a huge Pirates fan and a huge Pens fan and I had so many mixed emotions about the Pirates decision to involve Barry Bonds in the pre-game ceremony celebrating Andrew McCutchen's MVP award.  I wondered whether Bonds would be roundly booed, or cheered, by the crowd?  I wondered what I would do if I were there.  I watched the pre-game ceremony and saw Bonds and was struck by how little I felt about him one way or the other.  I still think of Bonds career as squandered, I still think about the "what ifs" - what if he hadn't left the Pirates, what if he hadn't taken steroids, and I still am disgusted that a man with so many talents would stoop to cheating.  But watching him stand there - he looked small.  Not just physically small, but he seemed small.  He wasn't the Pirates today, he was just a memory of 20 years ago.

I don't know if I have buried the hatchet when it comes to Bonds, but I certainly am not carrying it around like I was before.

Which brings me to Jagr.  Its the eternal question in Pittsburgh - how to remember Jagr?  Should we still hate him?  Should we welcome him back with open arms?  Should we cheer?  Should we boo? Should the Pens retire his number?

I don't know that I am ready to bury the hatchet with Jagr, but I do think that if Jagr is interested in his legacy - is interested in the way that the people remember him in Pittsburgh - than he will take a page out of Barry Bonds' playbook (never thought I would say that) and find a way after he retires to begin to repair his relationship with Mario and the Pens fan base. 

I suspect, despite all the hatred for Jagr in the Pens fan base (myself included) that the overwhelming majority of Pens fans would welcome the opportunity to bury the hatchet with Jags.



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2 comments:

  1. I just can't bury the hatchet with Jager. One word...Flyers

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  2. I wouldn't Boo them, but respectfully decline their welcome back . That's just me...Let professionals decide ;)

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