Coach's Corner

Cedrick Trout (shudder) comes to dinner. But that's not quite as big a joke as Major League Baseball's idea of steroid testing.

Cedrick Trout sorta invited himself over to my house for dinner. There was a moment when I could've said, "No, absolutely not." My wife, for instance, would never allow this to happen. I, alas, wavered at the critical moment. I didn't exactly say, "Hey, what a great idea!" No, I didn't exactly say that, but then, well ... I wavered. Trout took this as a welcome mat. I was stuck.

To simply say that Kelly was displeased with the social arrangements I'd agreed to would be an understatement of considerable proportion. "You what!?" she said, with nary a touch of bemusement. "You invited that raving psychopath into my house?! I'm going home ... tonight!" I tried to reason with her about how I really didn't exactly invite him here but, well, you know, he just kind of invited himself. "Since when don't you have a mouth?" she asked, rhetorically I presume. "You say N-O-O-O. Just like that. What's his phone number?" (Trout, of course, has no phone.) "This isn't going to happen." I mentioned that Trout said he was going to cook us dinner, what with his new skills as the egg cook at the Dancing Bear Saloon. I hoped (somewhat optimistically, I'll concede) that this would turn the tide.

"I won't eat breakfast when I know he's back there cooking," she noted. "I'm sure not going to eat his idea of a dinner." After a moment or two of heavy silence, she inquired, "What's he cooking, gopher?" And what could I say? I didn't want this maniac even knowing where I lived, let alone sitting around in my living room, doing whatever. Would we play Twister? But this was, as they say in military parlance, the situation on the ground. Trout would be here in two hours.

Trout didn't say anything about bringing along Salina, a lady friend who followed him into my house at 8:30. Salina outweighed the scrawny Trout by a good 50 pounds, but she seemed like a nice girl and she was carrying a tray of cookies, not that this mattered to Kelly, who disappeared downstairs. She was looking for Valium.

Trout was carrying some kind of food, nasty fish judging from the smell, wrapped in brown butcher paper. He announced, after finding my bourbon, that he was cooking us "something special." He proposed blackened redfish. I won't go into details of the fiasco that ensued. Suffice to say it involved all the smoke alarms in my small duplex howling and shrieking at maximum, nerve-shattering volume, a visit from the Vail volunteer fire department, another trip to the medicine cabinet for my wife, and an unpleasant scene between Salina and Trout, culminating in half the tray of cookies being tossed on the kitchen floor as the fire department was knocking on my door.

In retrospect, Trout went a little heavy on the butter, heat, and Cajun spices. It took days for the smoke to clear from the house. Kelly went back to Austin two days later, without having spoken three complete sentences to me in those tense 48 hours. Cedrick Trout was clearly unnerved by the shrieking smoke alarms and the visit from our fire chief. I have not seen him since, and this is a good thing.

In the moments before my house filled with smoke, we were sitting around watching the Denver news. I've long held that the Texas media gushes over the Cowboys far out of proportion for what even a rabid sports fan would consider reasonable, but Denver beats anything Dallas does by a long way, something I would heretofore have considered impossible. The Broncos had defeated the Bears in a pre-season game, an item of less news interest than a sick goat in a mountain glade. All three Denver network stations led off their newscasts with extensive footage, interviews, and commentary of the "great Bronco start." I timed one station at six minutes, before they turned their attention to trivial matters in the Middle East and an alleged public sighting of our vice-president. Then came the sports segment, "100% Bronco," followed by a half-hour postgame wrap-up show, which I missed because my house was on fire ...

The Major League Baseball Players Association has floated a steroid testing proposal that's been hailed as a groundbreaking step to restore credibility to a game where the sport's most sacred records are being called into question. The owners have accepted much of the players' proposal, a plan that sounds well and good in hourly sound bites. But there's a problem: Upon the most casual reflection, the players' plan is pure sham ... not even a worthy starting point.

The union, which barely even recognizes that steroids exist, let alone deals with the fact that they're illegal, proposes to do nothing at all next season except test players, during the season, when use of the drug is curtailed anyway, to do no more than set some sort of par value of players who "have a problem." Then, during the next season, a vaguely defined punishment-phase thing will kick in for those few hapless, stupid players caught in this leaky net.

Contrast this charade with the constant, highly scientific, zero-tolerance, completely random (in season and out) drug testing that bike racers or Olympic athletes routinely submit to, and we see how baseball will again be seen -- and rightly so -- as a sluggish brontosaurus, staggering slowly but inexorably toward its extinction.

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