The crying shame of steroid use |

The crying shame of steroid use

I know what you’re thinking: “Any guy who can type 30 words a minute with just two fingers must be on steroids.”

But I’m not here to talk about the past. I’ll leave that up to Mark McGwire, who said he’s not here to talk about the past, either. At least that’s what he told a Congressional panel investigating the use of steroids in Major League Baseball last week.

Memo to Mark: An investigation, by its nature, is all about the past. So quit crying and tell us why you stuck needles into your buffed behind before each game.

The guy is 6-feet-8 with arms bigger than my legs, and he’s crying in front of Congress. If that’s not a steroid-induced emotional swing, I don’t know what is.

As you all know by now, I love baseball almost more than I love tortilla chips and salsa. I could do both until my nose starts running like a river. And it pains me to see my heroes crying in front of Congress like a bunch of … I don’t know … ice skaters.

I mean, what’s the big deal about a batter on steroids facing a pitcher on steroids? Big muscles still can’t help you see a 100-mile-an-hour fastball in time to hit it out of the ballpark. That takes reflexes and great vision, and I’ve never read anywhere that steroids make you see any better.

If it were that easy, and if I wasn’t afraid of needles, I’d be poking myself every morning, which makes me wonder why they don’t make steroids in a sugar pill.

The National Newspaper Association of America has been working on a steroids policy of its own. It seems some reporters, photographers, editors and at least one publisher have been juicing up lately, and there’s a general feeling that they are ruining the news profession.

In my upcoming book I plan on naming names, but for now I’ll just let you know that some of your favorite journalists are involved. Maybe a year ago, before we went digital and still had a darkroom, I saw two reporters injecting each other with some clear fluid that did not appear to be film developer. I’d suspected something was up when one of them showed up for work after a two-week vacation with a forehead that was at least 2-feet wide and a foot deep. He’d never been especially fast, but he was suddenly turning in six and sometimes seven stories a day.

“What’s your secret?” I asked one day by the water cooler. “I mean, it takes me two hours just to scratch out 15 inches of copy and you’re doing that by 8:15 each morning.”

Once he stopped crying (tell-tale mood swing) he came clean, offering me a container of something called “SCOOPCO,” which he said was a derivative of BALCO.

“When you go home tonight, just give yourself a shot of this and I promise you’ll be writing faster and longer than any publisher in the country.”

That night I was emptying my pockets (change, keys, paper clips, doughnuts, etc.) and pulled out the vile of SCOOPCO. “Honey,” I said, looking for my wife. “Do you have a needle?”

“Did you rip the back of your slacks again?” she asked. I’d been doing that a lot lately, which is why I’d been considering some performance-enhancement drugs.

“Not that kind of needle, baby. I need one of those needles you stick into your fanny when you’re sick.”

“Can’t help you,” she said. “Are you ready for dinner?”

There was nothing on the label warning against it, so I took a quick sip of the SCOOPCO and headed for the kitchen.

The next morning I was responding to e-mails and noticed a difference. I was using all uppercased letters and my fingers felt like octopus tentacles. I was even using my pinky finger to reach the “P” and “L” letters on the keyboard. I grabbed the bottle of SCOOPCO and chugged it. By the time the day was over, I’d written 2,365 memos and responded to 4,987 e-mails. I even answered the ones from Viagra and the guy in Nigeria, who said he’d give me $5 million if I pretended to be some dead guy’s long-lost cousin.

Next thing I knew, I was getting a subpoena from my Congressman Doolittle. “Dear Mr. Ackerman,” it began. “You are hereby ordered to appear before the Committee To Rid Newspapers of SCOOPCO. Failure to appear will result in an audit of your federal income taxes.”

The hearing is slated for next week, which ought to give me plenty of time for the swelling in my forehead and fingers to subside.

Most of my opening statement is already finished, thanks to SCOOPCO. “Respected Congress people,” it begins. “I sit before you today to beg forgiveness. And if given that, I promise to name names in my upcoming book. For just $24.95, I’ll provide a hardcover that includes some of the biggest names in journalism – people like Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters, Geraldo Rivera and even Jerry Springer, just to name a few. And on the print side, you’ll find the likes of Royko and the late, great Herb Cain. SCOOPCO users all. I knew it was wrong and that in time it would make my eyebrows and possibly my nose fall off, but I got hung up on the ability to string words faster than anyone who ever played the game. As you know, I wasn’t blessed with big arms or golden locks, and SCOOPCO gave me the extra edge I needed to keep up in an ever-changing world.”

I’ll finish by promising to spend the rest of my career advocating an end to any and all drugs that make you type faster or spell better than the average Mo.

If that doesn’t grab them, I’ll bring out the snot rag and start bawling like a ballplayer on BALCO.


Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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