Dorfman: When Generosity Looks Weird

By Daniel I. Dorfman–

CHICAGO (WSCR) There is something unseemly, maybe even Scrooge-like, when what seems like a very nice gesture is met with the question “what is the ulterior motive?” But when Barry Bonds or anyone else with a bad PR image is involved, that’s what happens.

It was reported this week Bonds will step up and help pay for the college tuition of the two children of Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was assaulted mercilessly at Dodger Stadium in April. Stow suffered brain damage and has been in a coma ever since. It is the story that has any rational human being cringing, especially since only one of the alleged attackers has been arrested thus far.

There is no good point to this nightmare of the Stow family, but at least there have been attempts to do what can be done for them, including those by Tim Lincecum and Jeremy Affeldt of the Giants. And on the surface, it appears it was an incredibly magnanimous gesture by Bonds to contribute to the Stow children’s college tuition. Also, Bonds went to Los Angeles to visit Stow and his family.

But there is still a question about why he is really doing this.

On April 13, Bonds was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice in relation to the steroids investigation. A seven-time MVP who is baseball’s all-time and single season home run leader, Bonds probably has as much chance of making the Hall of Fame as LeBron James being named Cleveland’s Man of the Year. It is also hardly a secret Bonds was not the most beloved figure in sports, and that’s putting it mildly.

So is Bonds making this gesture – albeit a very generous one – to really help the Stow family or to improve his public relations? Probably a combination of both.

Taking a look at, there are pictures of Bonds meeting with the Stow family at the hospital as well as the doctors. But then farther down on the page is a reference what is described as Bonds’ “difficult time.” It is not that big of a stretch to think the Stow family situation is just being manipulated so Bonds can improve his image.

This really is a no-win situation for everyone. An athlete who has PR problems may want to make a genuine attempt to help people. If the athlete notifies the press, they are viewed as grandstanding. But then how else do they let people know about what they are doing and, more importantly, how do they get others to contribute to what is a worthy effort?

On the opposite end, if people question their motives, they look small-hearted and not appreciative of the genuine efforts that are being made to improve a situation such as the plight of the Stow family.

There is a similar question closer to home. While no one should ever compare Jay Cutler with Barry Bonds, it was striking earlier in the year that one of the rare interviews Cutler has given since the infamous NFC Championship game was after he had made a two-week trip to Africa to help children. Again, anyone who spends two minutes in Africa — let alone two weeks — deserves plaudits. But it just was unsettling that one of the few times Cutler has spoken publicly was to get some publicity for the organization he was working with on the trip.

At the end of the day, there really is no right answer to these scenarios. But the larger point remains: it’s a shame when someone tries to be noble and their acts are met with skepticism.

Do you agree with Daniel? Post your comments below.

daniel i dorfman Dorfman: When Generosity Looks Weird

Daniel I. Dorfman

Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.

  • YourMom

    It’s good to see that those in the cheap seats are willing to pass judgment on quasi-acts of contrition. Society’s members need to be willing to learn to give up their need to continually be the one to cast the first, and subsequent, stones on those who are trying to make good for those who could use a fair shake. It’s not like he’s trying to buy his way out of the conviction after all.

  • Danny

    Amen!! I don’t think the Stow family cares at this moment where it comes from!!! Faith, hope and love are interconnected. We are so scarred by I our own pessimism, we miss one of gods great gifts. Compassion for our fellow man. No matter what happens to Barry Bonds, he will have made a difference. Stick that in the PR pipe and see who wants to smoke it!!

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