NOT TO COMPLAIN, considering the image-busting travails Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong, Tim Montgomery and Barry Bonds are experiencing, but these are tough times for sportswriters and sports fans, too.
Given a choice, my earth-patrolling lot of short-attention-spanned scribes would much prefer to glorify athletes, especially the most famous champions who have achieved the rarest sporting records.
In sportswriting parlance, we'd rather "god up" the likes of Armstrong, Bonds, Montgomery and Jones. That means we'd rather go about our descriptive jobs of ascribing to them super-human qualities and outsized myths. This is the best way to try to explain how it is they do what they do.
Hyperbole sells, especially when the feat of these athletes so far exceeds our mundane concept of what a person - even a superlatively talented and dedicated and driven person - is capable of doing.
Lance Armstrong, world's greatest athlete, has had a long and amazing turn on the pedestal. Five Tour de France victories, all after he beat a cancer that probably would have beaten any number of others.
Barry Bonds, world's greatest slugger, can't knock himself off our radar no matter how many times his privileged, protected and skewed sense of reality has prompted him to say really dumb things.
The fact of his place in home run history is quantifiable; they are amazing numbers. But what about that wicked, game-altering swing that forces opposing managers to come up with new ways of not getting beat by Bonds?
Tim Montgomery, world's fastest human, ran the 100 meters in 9.78 to claim one of the most prestigious marks and monikers in all of sports.
Marion Jones, the transcendent track star once heralded as the next Ali, the next Jordan, has always looked the part of athletic goddess.
Yet here we are, mired in a performance-drug scandal and enveloped in an accusatory atmosphere of "outing" cheats that has tainted - or worse - the most luminous and special athletes of our era. All at once. For the same reason.
Instead of getting to "god them up," all we can do is follow the dark cloud that shades the pure, unadulterated spotlight from shining on these most amazing sports "heroes," who now appear defensive and suspicious.
It's a not so nice time for everyone, except for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is on a serious mission to make sure the U.S. Olympic Committee is not embarrassed post-Athens, when fallout from the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative could implicate U.S. Olympians.
Victor Conte, the BALCO chemist-to-the-stars, has offered to tell the government everything he knows about athletes' use of drugs and any involvement of coaches and officials - in exchange for no jail time.
Yesterday, reports in the San Francisco Chronicle helped fill in a theoretical road map for what's ahead for sprinter Montgomery. It's not good.
The USADA no longer needs failed drug tests to toss out cheaters. It won't even reach for a standard that proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
To get kicked out of track for two years or life, to lose face and endorsements and adulation, all USADA has to do is establish "to the comfortable satisfaction" of the panel hearing a case that violations of drug policy took place.
Safe bet: Tim Montgomery will not be going to Athens.
Also according to new reports, Montgomery said he was told Bonds was given performance-enhancing steroids by Conte.
Under oath and under threat of perjury, it appears Montgomery might have spilled some beans. To which Bonds' attorney said he had doubt "Conte would be talking about anything he's giving to anybody."
If it looks like subterfuge and sounds like subterfuge, it probably is subterfuge. Bonds can look reporters in the face and say he doesn't know anything about BALCO, as he half-heartedly did two weeks ago in Baltimore, but denials about failing drug tests aren't cutting it anymore.
Baseball may never tell us which of its anonymous drug tests showed up dirty; it may never retest samples for previously undetectable substances, but the noose is tightening.
Bonds can say he has never failed a drug test. So can Jones. But so far, USADA is doing a pretty good job educating the public that denials or the lack of failed drug tests aren't the same as innocence.
Montgomery's lawyers can argue about how grand jury testimony was not supposed to fall into the hands of the media, i.e., the public. Bonds, Montgomery, Jones and Armstrong can scream bloody murder about a witch-hunt mentality.
Look at the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. An "angry" Armstrong is set to defend not only the Tour de France, but more important, his reputation as a clean cyclist against accusations in a new book, L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh.