Local sports fans already had taken a pair of body blows earlier this week with the departures of two Orioles stars. Now, they have to try and make sense of something that makes absolutely no sense at all.
It's probably fair to say that Baltimore sports fandom was already glassy-eyed and leaning against the ropes when the news broke Thursday morning that Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata tested positive for Adderall and has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season.
Local baseball fans — who mostly are also local football fans — already had taken a pair of body blows earlier this week when Most Valuable Oriole Nelson Cruz signed a four-year deal with the Seattle Mariners and longest-tenured Oriole Nick Markakis was lured out of town by the Atlanta Braves. Now, they have to try to make sense of something that makes absolutely no sense at all.
Nobody needs to explain what Adderall is at this point, since we already got a "Crush" course in the illicit use of the popular ADHD drug during the final month of the baseball season. Chris Davis tested positive for it in September and was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and, as things turned out, all of the postseason.
It was in all of the papers, but that was September. The Ravens were just opening the NFL season and they were probably a bit distracted by the exploding Ray Rice situation. Ngata was probably just too busy to notice that another high-profile athlete in town had totally let down his teammates at a critical point in a very promising season because of what he called a "weak moment."
Ngata called it "a mistake" and said in a statement released by the Ravens that he takes full responsibility for it, but the ridiculously bone-headed (or worse) behavior of some of our most cherished athletes has reached a level of frequency that you have to wonder what exactly is stuck between their ears.
The baseball stuff this week was painful, but it was just business.
Cruz got his chance to make some big money after signing a bargain-basement $8 million contract last spring with the Orioles. No one wanted to see him go, but he came here to do exactly what he did — have a great season and then sell himself to the highest bidder.
The departure of Markakis hits home a little bit more because of his long attachment to this community, but he's still an upstanding guy who may have felt the Orioles weren't showing him quite enough love after nine years of honorable service on the field and in the community.
Ngata joins a separate pantheon of Baltimore superstars who have made this a truly disgraceful year in local sports.
That was the point when local sports fans could have been forgiven for losing all faith in humanity.
Remember, Rice was considered a young pillar of the community before he hit his then-fiancee last February, and Davis was the squeaky-clean critic of baseball's PED cheats before he got painted with the same brush. Phelps had acted out before, but everyone figured that he had grown out of his wild child era until he was pulled over for driving recklessly through the Fort McHenry Tunnel after a night of drinking and gambling at the Horseshoe Casino.
Since each one of those incidents was a major shock, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that another big local sports star has fallen victim to a serious lapse in judgment. Ngata, like Rice and Davis before the fall, just seemed like he wasn't the type to do something so self-defeating.
He is a leader on the Ravens defense, has been very active in the community and has carved out a place in the local cult of personality with several endorsement deals — perhaps most notably as the chief spokesman for Royal Farms fried chicken.
The Haloti Ngata Family Foundation raises money for worthy charitable causes, and Ngata even stepped in to replace Rice at the Maryland SPCA's March for the Animals after the domestic violence scandal surfaced last February.
The fact that Ngata took Adderall doesn't make him a bad human, of course. Adderall is a common drug prescribed to help people with ADHD and is used legally by many athletes.
It might not be cheating on the same level as anabolic steroids or human growth hormone, but it's a stimulant and it's on the restricted lists of most major sports for a reason.
There's no reason for anyone to make that kind of mistake in professional sports. The Ravens and the Orioles have large medical and training staffs that have the up-to-date lists of restricted substances and the circumstances under which they can be used.
This shouldn't have happened … but what else is new?