Jocks, pot and the sports page

There is nothing new in the observation that sports columnists tend to be moralizing gasbags. Like talk radio, the sports column aims to engage the public by the easiest mean available--in other words, by inducing outrage.

That said, the response of Twin Cities columnists to the drug troubles of Viking running back Onterrio Smith has been exceptionally horrid. 

In a May 20 column, the Strib's Jim Souhan worked himself into a lather on the subject. The screed climaxed with this icky, artless sentence: "Smith pledged his allegiance to Mary Jane instead of Matt Birk, so he deserves to be punished." 

Could such censorious tripe ever be topped?

I didn't think so. Then I came across this piece by Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press, which opened with the line, "Thank you, NFL, for taking Onterrio Smith off our hands for one full season," and promptly careened downhill.

In his two seasons with the Vikings, Smith has been a rugged, reliable back who has averaged 4.9 yards a carry and has yet to lose a fumble. Apparently, he smokes pot sometimes. So what?

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