Aaron Judge blasted his 61st home run last night to tie Roger Maris for the American League record. That's what we know. What apparently must be litigated this morning is if it's the real home run record because Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds — the only players to best it — all have their sordid and complicated relationships with fair play. What could move a person closer to the epicenter of fun and appreciation for a historic accomplishment than getting sidetracked in divisive minutiae, shouting for a few hours, and retiring to separate corners until the next superhuman feat can be sapped of all fun and pleasantness?
Why do we do this? Actually, let me rephrase. Why do y'all do this? Because I've seen the light and want to share it with you like a youth pastor pulling up a chair and sitting on it backwards. Enjoying things is fine. In fact, it's more than fine. More than that, it makes you feel well-adjusted and healthy instead of angry.
The other option is this: calling Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire assholes.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and it's perfectly okay to derive some enjoyment from a 6-foot-7 behemoth destroying baseballs at an almost-unprecedented pace before devolving into some sort of pro bono audition for First Take. Perhaps all of this sounds a bit ridiculous coming from someone who makes a living blogging about sports and sharing sports opinions. But it really feels like the debatification of sports is rotting the brains of fans at an alarming rate recently. It feels like it won't be long that we eliminate the step of admiring what these unbelievable athletes do instead of just briefly noting it before arguing if they're better than Player X or Y.
The real home run record is 73, set by Barry Bonds in 2001. He'll retain it because Judge won't catch him. It's officially recognized by Major League Baseball. End of discussion. Go about constructing your own reality. It won't change the record books.
These seasons were different. Judge could win the Triple Crown and stake claim to the second-greatest offensive year in baseball history. Behind, of course, Bonds who — it cannot be stated enough — launched 73 dingers despite being issued 177 walks. Judge is the king of New York and a classic slugger who, at times, feels as close to Babe Ruth in terms of mysticism as anyone who has played. This summer has allowed fans young and old to feel the magic of a home run chase, something sorely missed in baseball for decades.
Ironically, what Judge has done over the past six months makes me appreciate Bonds even more. And what Bonds did makes Judge's output even more impressive, considering how unhittable pitchers have become.
So go ahead and put in in the newspaper that I'm not mad. There's no reason to be mad. Something cool happened and it takes more work to find the negative than the positive.