Man hungry for information finds Ponson's clam act hard to digest

April 06, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

I WAS AFRAID this might happen. Sidney Ponson has resigned as my nutritional adviser, apparently in protest over the treatment he has been getting from the media.

Sir Sidney agreed earlier this spring to help me get in shape for the coming Ripken Baseball Minor League Fantasy Bus Trip. The plan was for me to lose 20 or 30 pounds so that I wouldn't blow the whole deal with an untimely groin pull, and Sidney's program - lots of grilled fish and 45 minutes per day on the treadmill - seemed like just the ticket.

So I stopped by his locker for my mid-diet evaluation on Monday and found out he has imposed a partial media embargo in the wake of the spring training revelation that he was arrested for driving under the influence earlier this year.

"I only talk on the days I pitch," he said. "I don't need to talk to you guys any more than that."

This apparently is intended as some form of punishment. Ponson is angry that one of the reporters covering the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale accidentally uncovered the police report from the January arrest. I say accidentally because the DUI turned up when the guy was trying to find out if there was a police report about the incident in which Ponson injured his pitching hand allegedly taking a swing at some aggressive fan at a South Florida restaurant.

Just Sidney's luck. He's actually the aggrieved party in the bar scuffle and he still ends up on the wrong end of a headline, but the fact remains that he got pulled over a couple of weeks after getting out of an Aruban jail and refused to blow into a breathalyzer, a decision that doesn't usually endear you to the local constabulary.

He can pout all he wants, but the arrest would have surfaced eventually, so he's probably better off getting it behind him now. It only makes him a bad fellow if he doesn't learn anything from the experience.

The past four months have been a nightmare, starting with the beach brawl that landed him in jail and tarnished his image in his home country. Ponson promised that he would use better judgment in the future, but the DUI casts doubt on whether he really meant it, and his defiant behavior after it came to light was not an encouraging sign for either him or the Orioles.

No one is asking him to stop enjoying life, but he makes enough money to insulate himself from hothead fans and he should be smart enough to take a cab home the next time he's out pounding pilsner. So far, all he has promised to do is insulate himself from the local media, which - as far as I know - had nothing to do with any of the three incidents that have put Sidney's off-field behavior in the unwanted glare of the public spotlight. Unearthing the police report for the DUI doesn't count.

I understand his frustration. He has always had a good relationship with the reporters covering the team and, for the most part, he has handled bad publicity - and the occasional Page 2 shot - with good humor. When I trotted out that Dean Wormer line from Animal House a few months ago - "Son, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life" - he pulled me aside and admitted he laughed when he read it. That made me like him more.

Of course, we all want the happy Sidney back, but if getting angry at the media gets him to focus on proving everyone wrong about him, and that causes him to get his act together and become the great pitcher he has the talent to become, then I hope he stays angry. The Orioles need him more than I do.

It is disappointing he won't be helping me with the diet, because I really need a kick start to get me moving in the right direction. Six weeks into my program, I've probably lost about five pounds, and that might be because Sidney accidentally put his wallet on the scale when he was helping me weigh in on the first day of training camp.

But I did cull one important diet tip from Sidney's police report. It revealed he listed his weight on his driver's license as 236 pounds, to which I can say only one thing.

Why didn't I think of that?

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