Here it is, folks. Served up piping hot by Kurt Streeter in Sunday's Los Angeles Times — the platonic ideal of a steroid-outrage column.
It's got everything. We have sputtering:
Am I out of touch? Am I too angry, too outraged about Manny Ramirez and his dope-induced exile to baseball purgatory?
Chest-pounding indignation at the apathy of the bovine masses:
"Save the moral panic," read another. "Most of your readers under the age of 70 have done the same long ago. . . . Is taking steroids cheating? Sure, maybe."
Sure, maybe? Ho-hum, la-di-da , who cares . . .
So, sitting here in the press box during the Dodgers' Saturday win against the Giants, the question comes. Am I, along with the other journalists who are breathing fire about this sordid story, simply out of touch with a huge slice of our audience, the who-cares-who-takes-what crowd?
A quick dip into the first-person plural:
It's when we lose track of this, when we as a society are willing to cut too much slack, when we in the press stop drawing a hard line, that deep trouble comes.
Strained attempts at connecting PED use to legitimate scourges in the culture at large:
Rules are rules. They exist for a reason. We might not like them. They might make our games less interesting. We might wish they were different, but we either abide by them or we get chaos. We get Bernie Madoff; fake, flimsy loans; economic Armageddon. We get Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod and now, Manny Ramirez.
And who will think of the children?:
My wife teaches third grade at a school a mile from Dodger Stadium. Is this what she should tell her kids, a group that has adored Ramirez since he arrived in town? "Kids, it doesn't matter if you cheat."
Who, I ask?
Even worse, the cheats are sending the ugliest possible message about living healthily, especially to the kids who deify them.
Let's not forget the painfully clumsy analogizing:
How would you feel about Tiger Woods if you saw him take a mulligan every time he sprayed a drive? How'd you like it if, when the Cavaliers played the Lakers, they started six players and L.A. started five?
(No, it's nothing like either. And if whatever Manny might've taken is anything like what Barry Bonds used, i.e. a substance neither illegal at the time nor specifically banned by baseball, it can't even be said to constitute cheating.)
And, of course, there's the awesome Reefer Madness-style scare-mongering (note the blithe conflation of use with abuse):
"I'm afraid people don't really understand how horrific this stuff is, they don't know what it does, they don't know that it can kill you," said Dr. Anthony Butch, director of the UCLA Olympic Analytic Laboratory.
He equated the amount of steroids most pro athlete abusers take to smoking four packs of cigarettes a day; you don't die right away, but your chances of making it past age 55 drip away with each puff. Butch ran through the heightened health risks. Out-of-control rage, liver damage, heart damage, lung damage, prostate damage, cancer, diabetes, infertility . . . on and on.
And meanwhile, as Dash noted this morning, Lou Merloni and the Boston Globe seem to think it's a great thumping outrage that a trained medical professional might actually teach a segment of the population with a taste for subcutaneously administered drugs how to safely inject the stuff. So which is it? Do we care about the users' health or don't we?
"It was like teaching your teenage daughter about sex education," as Merloni put it to the Globe's Nick Cafardo, and you could imagine the two men shaking their heads gravely at the very notion. Christ, it's like it's the 1980s all over again, and our nation's sportswriters have collectively decided to play the role of Bill Bennett.