Bonds’ spring deceives 

Sure, Barry Bonds looks great. It’s spring training, everybody looks great.

But if Jason Ellison’s amazing run of reaching base 15 out of 16 times doesn’t mean anything, then Bonds’ sparkling spring as a 42-year-old superstar apparently defying his age doesn’t mean anything, either. You can’t have it both ways.

I have to hand it to Bonds, though, he’s lost a bit of weight, he’s moving well, and he appears to have a bounce in his step and plenty of pop in his bat. Who cares if he loses a couple of balls in the sun?

For me, though, the problem with Bonds dates back to Dec. 11, 1981, and the moment Muhammad Ali bounded into the ring to take on Trevor Berbick. It was breathtaking.

In each of his previous fights, Ali arrived in the ring a touch heavier, and proceeded each time to look less and less like his championship self. However, against Berbick, Ali shed his robe and looked awesome, years younger, noticeably less bloated than his career-high of 236 pounds. He’d turned back the clock. I was sure of it. While he and Berbick listened to pre-fight instructions, I lost myself in the delight of anticipating the Ali of old.

Unfortunately, Ali could shed those pounds, but he couldn’t shake his age. And after a couple of rounds, he had nothing left, proceeding to end his career in a losing fashion that looked every bit deserving of a 39-year-old.

Barry Bonds is 42, and if he breaks Hank Aaron’s record this season, it will cap one of the greatest seasons of all time. Men his age simply can not compete at an elite level over an entire baseball season, a six-month marathon of strength and skill. If he doesn’t wear down like lesser men (and younger men, for that matter) he’ll be owed the ovation of a lifetime.

In one of those fantasy baseball preview magazines, Bonds was projected to hit 28 home runs in 2007, perhaps the biggest fantasy in the publication. I’m sticking with 14 home runs as the over-under. No matter how he looks in March.

» Amazing things do come to those who persevere through heartbreak and pain, a truth proven once again by the latest chapter involving Harry Aleo and Greg Gilchrist. The two men who (far too early) buried their champion, Lost in the Fog, last September have another runner who is on the verge of proving he belongs in the Fog’s class.

Keep an eye out for Smokey Stover, a 4-year-old carrying Aleo’s colors who won impressively again Sunday at Bay Meadows. Smokey is currently the No. 1 sprinter in the country, and it will be as great a story as sports can offer if Smokey brings Aleo and Gilchrist another shot at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint this fall.

» This week, another piece of evidence was bantered about proving that Warriors fans may be the best fans in the world. They believe. They’ll always believe. And, no matter the magnitude of disappointment they’re dealt in a season, they’ll find a reason to believe again.

The latest evidence? The fact that the Warriors were 4-0 when able to start Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Andris Biedrins and Jason Richardson.

» I came across a note that ought togive Giants fans a shot of optimism — that, over his six years with the A’s, when staked to three runs or more, Barry Zito’s record was 93-11. Score, Giants, just score.

» When the NBA offers up a game like the Phoenix Suns’ 129-127, double-overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks, it reminds us that the game of professional basketball has no rival when played at its best.

Unfortunately, a game like the Suns-Mavs also reminds us that there are too many games, too many lethargic affairs that aren’t worth remembering.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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