By Skip Bayless
Page 2

I'm one of those body-as-temple weirdos. Wouldn't touch alcohol. Never so much as tried a cigarette.

Couldn't even imagine holding a joint.

My lone addictions are work, running and weight lifting, pretty much in that order. I know, I'm sick.

Randy Moss
Are you shocked that Randy Moss smokes pot? And, do you even care?

So I stunned myself the other day on ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" when I was asked if it bothered me that professional athletes -- notably Randy Moss -- smoke marijuana away from the field.

Honestly … no.

And the gut feeling here is that it doesn't really bother NFL or NBA executives, either -- as long as a player doesn't admit to smoking dope in an interview with Bryant Gumbel to air Tuesday night on HBO's "Real Sports."

That, of course, is what Moss admitted, according to a partial transcript released by HBO. Moss, who has always fought an off-the-field inferiority complex, apparently tried to impress Gumbel by saying "… I've had my fun throughout my [seven NFL] years, you know, predominantly in the offseasons."

Moss, according to the transcript, also makes it clear he doesn't abuse marijuana and says he doesn't want kids "taking a lesson from me as far as, 'Well, Randy Moss used it, so I'm going to use it.'"

Somewhere, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is clenching his teeth and perhaps preparing to announce the league now has just cause to move Moss into the up-to-10-tests-a-month phase of the league's recreational drug-use program. Moss didn't just blow his cover. He blew the league's.

The NFL and NBA basically operate on the premise that what parents and kids don't know about players won't hurt them -- or keep them from watching or buying tickets.

And millions of deficient parents continue to teach kids that pro athletes -- who invariably make the worst role models -- are the ultimate role models.

Which brings me to the image-twisted, parent-fueled hypocrisies that sometimes make me feel as if I'm on a bad heroin trip.

How can the NFL expect players to readily agree to let team doctors shoot them with painkillers so they can play with injuries no real-world doctor would clear -- yet then be prohibited from smoking marijuana to anesthetize themselves after tough games?

And why wouldn't the league sooner outlaw drinking alcohol than smoking marijuana?

The obvious answer, of course, is that marijuana is illegal. Yet how and why alcohol survived prohibition to become one of this country's biggest problems makes me feel three sheets to wind.

I'll leave the soap-box derbies about big business and corrupt government to analysts who transcend sports' toy box.

But you also should know this about me: I grew up in a two-alcoholic household. My father drank himself to death at 49 -- cirrhosis of the liver the official cause. My mother's brother and father also were alcoholics. Her brother basically crawled into a bottle and died, and my grandmother used to hide my brother and me in her basement when my grandfather came home drunk.

A mean bull of a drunk, my granddad was.

So I've sat through lots of alcoholic counseling and observed lots of drunk people. And after checking out the effects of pot on friends, mostly in college, I reached a few conclusions.

Alcohol dramatically alters a person's normal state, often bringing out his or her worst side, with little or no control over motor skills or better judgment. Marijuana mostly suspends a person's normal state, allowing him or her to escape into an inner fantasy world moving in slow motion.

I fear people who are drunk, in bars and driving cars. I don't fear people who are high on grass.

Alcohol is far more damaging and deadly than marijuana -- unless, of course, you want to argue the long-term cancer-causing effects of smoking grass.

So if I owned the Oakland Raiders, I'd be far more concerned from a performance standpoint if Randy Moss were drinking instead of smoking himself into a stupor every night. In fact, if I owned a team, I'd want to contractually prohibit my players from going to nightclubs -- especially strip clubs -- just the way pro deals often prevent high-paid athletes from risking their bodies skydiving or snow skiing.

Call me a fuddy-duddy if you like, but tell me this isn't true: Mix pro athletes with alcohol, other high-testosterone males, and females wearing very little -- and bad things often happen.

The police blotter is littered with weekly proof.

If customers could only smoke dope in nightclubs, I seriously doubt as many pro jocks would be arrested for breaking some big mouth's jaw or bouncer's arm.

But please, this is no out-of-left-field campaign to legalize marijuana. I merely consider it by far the lesser of two evils. If I were king for a day, I'd make alcohol and marijuana illegal.

Just me, but I've always considered it cowardly to duck life by escaping into a bottle or joint.

I'd like to think I can handle problems or have fun without unleashing some alter ego who's cool or funny only to me or by retreating into my own private amusement park. When I go to dinner with friends, I prefer they remain exactly the way they were when we were seated.

But you and I are -- or were -- talking about an NFL superstar who all but brags to Bryant Gumbel that he smokes a little weed now and then.

We're talking about a national media reaction -- or overreaction -- that surely had players in all pro sports privately chuckling.


You imagined a subhead of: "Duh."

That's exactly the way Lomas Brown reacted to the news. Brown, a former offensive tackle who played 18 seasons and made seven Pro Bowls, did a "Cold Pizza" segment just ahead of mine. He said whoever says only about 20 percent of NFL players smoke marijuana must be smoking some himself.

Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams, probably the most well-known marijuana smoker in pro sports.

Brown said at least 50 percent smoke marijuana.

Estimates of NBA marijuana use have ranged anywhere from 50 to 80 percent (at its height six or eight years ago). The word from both leagues continues to be that if you fail a marijuana test, you are stupid or dependent.

A year ago, Ricky Williams said he purposely failed a couple of tests so he could free himself from the confines of pro football and smoke dope without having to worry about using masking agents to beat tests. Though most studies find marijuana to be no more addictive than, say, caffeine, in extreme cases it obviously can consume a person as any drug can. Perhaps Williams fell into that category.

So how can the NFL let Williams off with a mere four-game suspension after he made a mockery of its testing? Obviously, he was beating tests when he felt like it.

Then again, he wasn't using harder drugs, as far as we know. So the NFL is basically saying, "It was just marijuana."

And marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug such as steroids or amphetamines.

(Then again, in 1999, the Chicago Bulls were leaning toward taking a player with the first pick in the draft until he readily admitted he smoked marijuana before every game, to help his "flow." The Bulls went in another direction.)

Yet as dedicated as I might be about what I do and do not put in my body, I can't work up much righteous indignation about Randy Moss smoking some dope. Is that any worse a confession than "Moss Admits to Having an Occasional Beer"?

OK, OK: Marijuana is illegal.

But Moss plays a violent game. Pro basketball, with 82 regular-season games, is extremely demanding physically. Baseball can be, too, though alcohol seems to be more of baseball's drug of choice.

But does it outrage me that many players unwind with some marijuana? Honestly, no. In fact, if anyone outside a hospital deserves to use marijuana, it's an NFL or NBA player.

So what do parents tell kids who idolize Randy or Ricky? Tell them what I just wrote -- that those guys are extremely gifted entertainers whose bodies take terrible beatings. Tell them Randy and Ricky have occasionally used marijuana in somewhat the same way very sick people do -- as medical marijuana.

Yet how can a parent tell a kid not to try grass if the kid watches that parent get drunk?

Of course, to many parents in their 40s and 50s, grass remains something only hippie freaks get hooked on. They believe getting Cheech-and-Chonged on grass means a kid will soon be hooked on heroin, which could be humiliating and expensive to the parent.

But is marijuana any worse than beer or wine or booze?

Only if Randy Moss admits on TV he occasionally smokes it.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.

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