The biggest steroids-related story that the NFL has seen in years, if not ever, continues to grow tentacles. The morning after the unprecedented Associated Press do-over regarding the defensive rookie of the year award, anger is mounting within some media circles regarding the decision of 17 voters to vote once again for Brian Cushing, who gave in September a urine sample that tested positive for hCG, a non-steroid commonly used after a cycle of steroids. (One voter, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, actually changed his vote from Bills defensive back Jairus Byrd to Cushing.)
The backlash started last night, when Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated threw off the gloves and targeted the band of sportswriters who opted not to ban Cushing from receiving the honor. “Memo to 18 AP voters who let Brian Cushing keep his award, despite clear PED use: you should be drug-tested yourselves,” Murphy said via Twitter. “What a f’ing joke.”
Vic Ketchman of Jaguars.com was more tactful, but just as powerful. “The message is that what Cushing did is no big deal,” Ketchman writes. “The message is that
a lot of sportswriters believe that what Cushing did is nothing more
than what a lot of other players do, and that message greatly
disappoints me. This kid had the look coming out of college. Everybody
knew it but we all turned our back on it. The use of
performance-enhancing drugs sickens me. It is, in my opinion, the
ultimate in cheating. This is far worse than what Bill Belichick did
with a video camera. As everyone knows, I’m a firm believer in the
philosophy of innocent until proven guilty. In Cushing’s case, he’s been
proven guilty, yet, he’s being suspended for two games fewer than a guy
who wasn’t even charged with a crime.
“Worse, yet, my media brothers are
allowing Cushing to keep his award. Shame on them. They sold out.”
Our good friend Howard Balzer of the Sports Xchange and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, who changed his own vote from Brian Orakpo to James Laurinaitis, was candid via e-mail.
“I’m almost too stunned for words,” Balzer said. “When I found out the result of the Cushing vote and how some made their vote a protest of the process, I couldn’t believe it.
“The AP gave us a chance to right a wrong and it was fumbled badly. And Cushing has the gall to say he is still ‘honored.’ Makes me want to gag.
“Those that say the AP move was unprecedented . . . of course, it was. When has an award been given one season, and before the next season is played we learn the winner used PEDs that previous year?
“In retrospect, the AP should have stripped him of the award, had a re-vote and declared him ineligible.
“Everyone that voted for Cushing originally should have considered one thing and one thing only before re-voting: If he had been suspended last season would we have voted for him? That answer is probably obvious, especially because the missed games would have impacted his production.
“This should have been easy. It makes no sense.”
We agree. And, frankly, we have an even bigger problem with the idea that people voted for Cushing the second time around not because they thought that Cushing should keep the award, but because they disagreed with the notion of doing the vote all over again.
Folks, if that’s the way you feel, then don’t vote at all, like ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Better yet, resign your position as a member of the panel.
Really, if the voters disagree sufficiently strongly with the decision to conduct a second vote that they’re willing to go Veruca Salt and vote for Cushing again despite clear evidence he was using a banned substance that is the lemon juice to the hypodermic tequila shot, why in the hell didn’t they simply quit instead?
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, whom we respect and like, has taken this thing to a new level, openly calling it “absurd” to have a second vote.
Again, then why participate at all?
And if the folks who decided to make a mockery of the process didn’t have the nerve to walk away from the 50-person club, the AP should force their hand, and force them out.
We know that at least 18 members of the sportswriting community, including our good friend Tom Curran, may not appreciate our message or the manner in which we’re delivering it. When we take a hard stand on an issue like this, we do it because we believe it’s important to be willing to point out from time to time that the emperor is unwittingly riding down the street butt-naked on a horse.
In this case, we believe that the emperor is aware that he’s naked, that he’s standing up in the saddle doing the Cabbage Patch, that he has a long piece of toilet paper stuck to his left foot, and that he intentionally put it there.