Recent events remind me how D.C. works: “Light-skinned,” racially offensive; “Redskins,” term of endearment!


Got a visit in the comments section yesterday from John Maroon. He’s Cal Ripken‘s PR guy. He’s mad. He didn’t like my calling Mark McGwire‘s steroids confession a “milestone on the Road to Ripken™,” and he essentially called me a, well, maroon.

(AFTER THE JUMP: A look at all the other O’s who’ve been stained by steroids investigations? Isn’t guilt-by-association a fool’s playground? Brady Anderson did have a heckuva year, right? Creatine must be really good? The nickname “Agent Zero” came from a Washington City Paper dude? How cool is that? Roosevelt High does away with girls basketball?)

Here’s what Maroon wrote:

Dave, one of the sad results of the age that we live in is that anyone, even you, can have a platform for his opinion. I know Cal and have worked with him since 1995. He is not a cheater. How irresponsible for you to insinuate that he is.

Cal represented the game the way that all players should. He treated fans with respect and showed up to play each and every day.

You really should be more responsible with your comments and back them with a shred of evidence.

I can’t argue about the sadness of me having a platform or the glory of Cal Ripken or the shredlessness of my post, John. But I’ve been using “Road to Ripken” for a long time now because I’m tired of the drip drip drip way the steroids story has come out. All the fake outrage that accompanied this week’s McGwire confession was hilarious and nauseating all at once. Obviously, I don’t have evidence of any sort that Cal Ripken ever did anything he shouldn’t have. I just use his name because he’s always thrown out as the symbol of all that’s right with baseball, and if he goes down, like everybody around him has already gone down, we can all just move on.

And, seriously, by now only a buffoon would really be shocked to learn that even Cal Ripken was just like everybody else who played in the Dead Balls Era. The guy going 55 mph on the Beltway isn’t viewed as noble; he’s a freak.

The big names who have already been judged guilty of using steroids outnumber the big names who haven’t by a massive margin. Sad but true: By now, common sense and human nature lead you to assume that any unsullied player from that era who was any good isn’t innocent, he’s just pre-caught.

I really do think that’s how historians are going to look at it.

Let’s check out one lineup Cal Ripken was a part of, the 2001 All-Star team from the American League. The starters for the AL included Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Bret Boone, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Roger Clemens. That’s just the starters, and about two-thirds of ’em have already been caught up big in steroids scandals. Oh, yeah: Jason Giambi was on the bench.

And Cal went back to the Orioles, a franchise that’s been as sullied as any in the Dead Balls Era™. Look at some of the folks who wore the O’s uniform and have shown up on congressional panels alongside McGwire or in the Mitchell Report facing steroid allegations: Rafael Palmeiro, Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons, David Segui, Kevin Brown, Sammy Sosa, Jason Grimsley, and Greg Zaun. (An assist on hunting down the accused O’s goes to Tom Scocca, a lifelong Baltimore fan who, along with being a genius, shares John Maroon’s opinion that I’m an unfunny, blasphemous maroon for using “Road to Ripken” or ever mentioning Ripken and ‘Roids on the same digital page.)

Sure, there’s no hint of Ripken in the report, and he was gone before some of these guys used Camden Yards as their own Needle Park. But the Tejada/Palmeiro situation — where the players admitted to openly exchanging syringes in the locker room, but claimed they were only filled with Vitamin E before it came out all these O’s were shooting up with more serious juice — showed how friendly the Baltimore scene was to, you know, supplements.

And historians might point out the career arc of Cal Ripken’s best buddy on the O’s: Brady Anderson.That’s who Cal selected to give the speech to the Camden Yards crowd on the biggest night of his career, when he broke Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive games streak in 1995. Folks looking back at the salad days of the Dead Balls Era might get suspicious that, smack in the middle of baseball’s steroids binge, Anderson went from a singles hitter to a buff long-baller in 1996. He’d hit 41 home runs the previous three seasons combined, with a career high 21 homers in 1992, then hit 50 homers in 1996, his 10th season in the majors. Anderson also all of a sudden sported the physique of a body builder magazine cover boy.

Only one other player in Major League history ever hit 50 homers and stole 50 bases in a single season: Barry Bonds.

The court of public opinion has already judged Bonds; with some distance, who wouldn’t think Anderson wasn’t also shooting up the cocktail du jour?

Anderson gave all the credit to creatine and throwing steel. And in a 2004 story about the steroid suspicions Anderson faced, Cal Ripken attributed his friend’s outta-nowhere 50 HR season to supplements, also: “Now protein mixes are an acceptable part of everyone’s diet,” Ripken told the Baltimore Sun. “Brady always had a much more advanced concept of cross-training and plyometrics and his diet. He was just ahead of the curve.”

There was a time when McGwire and his cronies gave creatine all the credit, too.

Does any of this, or my continued use of “The Road to Ripken,” mean I think Cal Ripken used steroids? Hell no. It just means I’ll be sad, but not surprised, if someday Cal sits down with the cameras running and cries.


The above photo comes from the cover of a Gilbert Arenas autobiography that probably won’t come out in May.

I bring it up because last week I rang up James Morris, a former City Paper graphic designer and a founder of Wizznutzz, the transcendent sports blog of our age. He’s also the guy who gave Arenas the nickname “Agent Zero,” the one that the player used in the title of the autobiography that probably won’t come out in May.

Morris is, to use a Gibbs-ism, super-smart, and given his brains and closeness to the situation I figured he’d have wisdom to impart about Arenas’ sad state. I also like just thinking about how a guy I used to work with did something as cool as giving an NBA superstar a nickname that the whole universe embraced.

I wrote up some of his thoughts in a column that can now be found on this Web site and tomorrow will appear inside the super-ignored print edition of Washington City Paper. Here’s but one of Morris’ nuggets, after being asked to describe how he’s felt as Arenas unraveled so publicly:

“Watching this go down, it’s seemed like death by cop, only in Gilbert’s case it was death by Twitter,” Morris says of Arenas’ guns-in-the-locker room debacle. “Like he wanted to stay out there until somebody took him down. And David Stern took him down.”

Damn, he’s good. For the rest of his wisdom, read the Cheap Seats online today, pick up a street copy tomorrow, read Cheap Seats again, patronize our advertisers, and, you know, Save Our Ship.


Sad story by Preston Williams in today’s Washington Post about the disappearance of the girls basketball squad at Theodore Roosevelt Senior High.

The school’s hoops program went away as soon as the head coach quit. Williams attributes the situation primarily to the DCIAA’s transfer rules, which are as loose as any school district’s in the entire country. Those rules, Williams explains, lead to kids going to whatever school their favorite coach works for, no matter where the kids live, and put loyalty to the coach above loyalty to the school.

That’s the same sad reality that, as I try to write about every few weeks, has crippled the football program at Spingarn for years.

But far as I can tell from Williams’ story, the underclasswomen on last year’s Roosevelt team didn’t transfer to other DCIAA schools when the coach left in September. There’s no team this year because nobody came out for the girls squad. I agree that the DCIAA rules are ridiculous, but it sounds to me like the apathy of the Roosevelt administration deserves most of the blame here. It takes a village.


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