Who's asking: Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption"
This was a rhetorical question, because Kornheiser, at least, was saying that we don't. In fact, he went so far as to say he thought steroids would be legal in Major League Baseball in another 10 years.
Speaking only for myself, I care a lot. The day steroid use becomes legal in professional sports is the day I stop watching all of it.
Leave aside the fact that it's cheating. A certain amount of cheating is always part of the game, and if you can figure out a creative way to give yourself an unfair advantage over an opponent, good for you.
I don't even care much about grown men inflicting steroid-related damage on their bodies -- the skin rashes, the hair loss, the emotional instability, the loss of bone mass, the shrinking genitalia. I'm never going to date Jose Canseco, so that fact that he's a wife-beater (and probably impotent) doesn't affect me at all.
The problem is that once you legalize steroid use for professional athletes, you make it part of what student athletes aspire to -- and steroid use is much, much too dangerous to allow for adolescents. Anabolic steroids, meant to boost growth, can actually stop growth prematurely in adolescents. They can cause liver damage, high blood pressure, blood clots and other life-threatening or life-shortening health problems. Teenagers, who believe themselves immortal, are not capable of weighing potential benefits of drug use against these permanent health risks.
Okay, advocates say, so you only legalize them for adults, you require full disclosure, and you allow only doctors and trainers to dispense them. But it's already too easy for teenagers to get this stuff on the Internet; creating a legal supply chain, of any kind, just makes it that much more available.
So yeah, Tony, I care. And I care about sportscasters who, by even asking this question, imply that steroid use is benign.
What I Read These Weeks
It's a two-week list but not as long as usual, because I had company -- and because I got halfway through the advance copy of a forthcoming novel by a bestselling author, and it was so ridiculous and insulting to my intelligence that I had to put it down.
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know. Over Easter Weekend, 1975, two sisters disappeared from a Baltimore shopping center. Thirty years later, a woman charged with leaving the scene of a car accident says she's the younger of those two girls -- but won't say more without a lawyer. The mysteries only begin here, as this astonishing novel explores the central questions of sisterhood, family, and identity. Character may be who we are in the dark, but are we anyone at all until someone calls us by name?
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful. Full disclosure: Allison's a friend of mine. He was a charter member of my Los Angeles pub trivia team, and is one of the kindest people I know. His generosity of spirit shines through this book, which continues the adventures of B.K. Troop, an overweight, neurotic, alcoholic gay man who could be an older version of John Kennedy Toole's Ignatius J. Reilly. Troop inherits a New York brownstone and turns it into a boarding house for artists. He's trying to create a family for himself, but it's not until the arrival of Adrian, a would-be poet, that his dreams come true (in a most surprising way). A lovely, lovely book.
T. Jefferson Parker, Storm Runners. If you're in the Los Angeles area, go to The Mystery Bookstore at noon today to hear Jeff Parker talk about this book; I'm sorry I can't be there. San Diego detective Matt Stromsoe lost his wife and child to a bomb blast caused by his former best friend, Mike Tavarez, who's now running the local unit of the Mexican Mafia. When Stromsoe agrees to serve as bodyguard to Frankie Hatfield, a local weather reporter, it's only a matter of time before Tavarez joins forces with the people gunning for Hatfield.
John Harvey, Flesh & Blood. I read this one because Mark Billingham's forum discussed it this month. I'd never read anything by John Harvey before. Former Detective Inspector Frank Elder comes out of retirement when Shane Donald, convicted of rape and murder as a teenager, gets out of prison. Elder's convinced that Donald and his partner were responsible for the disappearance of another girl, Susan Blacklock, whose body was never found. As Elder tracks Shane, another girl goes missing. Then Elder's own daughter is taken. The investigation forces Elder to realize that every one of his assumptions was wrong -- which, as I recently said to a friend, is the defining passage of middle age.