Coaches, managers, owners - they've all failed. The inmates not only are running the asylum, they're escaping in limos.
In Baltimore and other cities across North America, professional athletes continue to redefine the meaning of self-indulgence, a term that was practically invented on their behalf.
Our heroes follow their own agendas, set their own schedules and most definitely march to their own drummers.
They get arrested. They get suspended. They get agitated when their favorite band won't play another encore.
Group therapy is out of the question when teams like the Orioles and Ravens routinely act as "enablers" for players who are completely out of touch with reality.
So, in the grand tradition of Ann Landers and Dear Abby, it's time for a little folksy advice from a renowned self-help columnist, even one who has issues of his own stemming from his smallish stature and New York upbringing.
Shall we empty the mailbag?
Dear Dr. Ken: The other night I attended a kickin' Metallica concert at PSINet Stadium. Two teammates and I rented a limo, and I got back to New York in plenty of time to blow a 7-0 lead in my next start. What's the problem?
- Aimless in Aruba.
Dear Aimless: First, allow me to call you "Kid Rock"; it would be better for your self-esteem.
Now, it's not every day you get the chance to see Metallica. And, as you told the media, "If I go out in New York City on the Fourth of July until 4 or 5 in the morning, it's the same thing."
But two questions:
Are you saying that the alternative to seeing Metallica was partying in New York until 4 or 5 in the morning?
Has it ever occurred to you that you might want to stay in your hotel room and curl up with a good book?
Dear Dr. Ken: The NFL just suspended me for at least eight games after my fourth violation in the league's substance and alchohol-abuse program. Will my team take me back?- Down and Out on the D-Line.
Dear Down and Out: Not to worry - your owner is a forgiving man, and he'll be especially forgiving if your fellow defensive tackles are overweight or injured when your suspension is lifted.
You've got the letter, right? The one from the NFL saying that you "may have unwittingly ingested the drug and triggered a positive test?"
Hold on to that sucker, and you'll be back in uniform in no time.
Dear Dr. Ken: I'm down here in the minors, trying to show up on time for a change, and one of my coaches says in the paper, "He needs to keep working very hard, and I don't know if he knows what 'very hard' means." What's up with that?
- 24KTARM in Bowie.
Dear 24KTARM: I almost sympathize with you. You're young. You're naive. You were arrested in Fort Lauderdale, and the charges against you were dropped.
That said, you're blowing it, kid.
Start listening to those around you - and we don't mean Metallica.
Dear Dr. Ken: It's like this: The cops find a half-ounce of marijuana in my house, and I'm not even there. I get charged with misdemeanor possession, and the weed belonged to my friends!
- All Alone on the Corner.
Dear All Alone: Such a cruel world. So many innocent victims.
You appear to be hanging out with the wrong crowd.
What kind of man associates with people who won't clean up their own mess?
Dear Dr. Ken: People have suggested I seek help before, but they're all a bunch of #$@#%#%*&. This time, though, is different. My manager is starting to use me as a DH, and I smell a rat.
- Useless in right field.
Dear Useless: Brace yourself, for I must deliver bad news. Luis Matos is this year's Jerry Hairston, not to mention Roberto Clemente to your Geronimo Berroa.
If your team knows what is best - and it usually doesn't - it will keep playing Matos in the outfield, purge Rich Amaral and Harold Baines and rotate you and Brady Anderson at DH.
My advice at that point would be to act out, renounce your no-trade clause and demand a new address.
But fear not - management won't have the guts to confront you, no matter how many balls you fail to catch.
Dear Dr. Ken: My team is still ticked that I delayed shoulder surgery for one month so I could play in the Pro Bowl. Now, a certain baseball team might allow a certain future Hall of Famer to play in the All-Star Game even though he is on the disabled list. What gives?
- One-armed backer in rehab.
Dear One-armed: You gave your heart and soul last season. You're one of the few role models on the local sports scene. And you considered the Pro Bowl your rightful reward, even if your team begged you not to play.
Your decision was misguided, but as long as you are ready by the opener, all will be forgiven. You missed almost all of training camp your rookie season, and still wound up terrorizing the NFL.
The difference with a certain future Hall of Famer is that he will play in the All-Star Game only if he feels physically capable, and his manager will want to see how he responds to game action.
If the certain future Hall of Famer is less than fit, he, too, would be guilty of putting his own interests ahead of his team's.
Dear Dr. Ken: I admitted my crime. I warned NFL rookies not to follow my example. I'm trying to clean up my act. But these hangers-on, they're tough to shake. I got a call to go to this concert the other night, and man, it was tempting.
- Ray on the rebound.
Dear Ray: I've got one thing to say, and one thing only:
Stay away from "Kid Rock" and his crowd.