No country is more passionate about as many sports than America. Our lives revolve around them 12 months out of the year. It's the only arena in our lives where fantasy is actually a reality.
Not only do we annually spend millions of dollars for tickets and merchandise, we live our lives vicariously through our teams and the individual athletes that are part of them. The Super Bowl is not a game, it's practically a holiday.
We bury loved ones in team jerseys. We mow around flags of our favorite teams in our front lawns. We adorn our vehicles with team logos and our walls with Fatheads that are mere centerpieces of our sub-level shrines to our most beloved teams.
In conversation, we substitute team nicknames with "we" as if we're really a part of the team. We travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles for a three-hour game and leave the stadium drunk and borderline-suicidal if our team falls.
We throw things and swear at the TV when the very athletes we idolize and praise inexplicably screw up.
But we always forgive them because we know they'll make it up to us next week.
But we've hit a scary time in the sports world in this country - a time where when news of a superstar athlete being linked to steroids or other illegal substances barely makes us blink.
There was a time when a pro athlete getting busted for using performance enhancing drugs made us shudder, a time when we were legitimately taken aback when we heard this player or that player got busted.
Today, hearing news like that is like hearing the weather forecast. I'll even go one step further - we've almost come to expect news like that.
Lance Armstrong was under investigation longer than a mob boss. It's not like time stood still when he finally admitted to cheating to win his seven Tour de France titles recently. Not exactly a remember-where-you-were type news event.
Baseball had to add a new "era" to its history books - "The Steroids Era." Players like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens and Gary Sheffield were the headline makers during this time for their link to steroids and something called HGH (Human Growth Hormone).
The number of Major League Baseball players who have been suspended or implicated or tied to steroids and HGH reaches well into the hundreds. Steroids permanently tainted the best sport ever invented, and if not for our deep devotion to the sport, probably would've ruined it.
Earlier this week, a new report was released that linked Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez (who admitted to ESPN that he used steroids from 2001-03) and others to purchases of performance-enhancing drugs. What was your reaction? "Oh my God, A-Rod? On steroids? Get out!"?
I doubt it.
Mine was: "Huh, didn't see THAT one coming."
Then I moved on with my life.
Here's the sad part about baseball. "The Steroids Era," as much as we'd like to think it is, hasn't ended. I'm not sure it ever will. Pro athletes are human beings and human beings cheat and lie. We all do. The difference is, America doesn't care about you and me, it cares about A-Rod, Bonds and Armstrong and all the other banned substance abusers. And when they fade from the headlines, there will be three more there to take their place.
Enter Ravens bound-for-the-Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. News broke this week that Lewis tried to get his hands on deer-antler velvet extract (insert your own joke here but keep it clean), which contains IGF-1, a substance banned by the NFL.
Lewis, of course, denies the whole story, and I'd love to believe him. But the denial card is one played by all pro athletes. Not sure who we can believe anymore.
All I do know is that this report, this "news," doesn't shock me.
Nor will the next one.
Or the one after that.