Today's media conference call with Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach, and Bob Arum was horrible. I say that not to bag on the idea of conference calls. Sometimes they can be fun. Sometimes informative. Sometimes it's just nice to sit and listen.
But with audio issues making Manny and Freddie very hard to understand this afternoon, little of note happened. Manny offered stock answers when you could make them out at all, and Freddie spoke a little tougher, as he usually does, promising that "payback is a bitch" for upcoming November 12 opponent Juan Manuel Marquez.
The elephant in the room was the brewing controversy regarding Marquez's strength and conditioning coach, Angel "Memo" Heredia, who was outed by Victor Conte in the past few days as a former government informant and steroids dealer.
The first time the question came up, Manny stumbled to offer an unsurprising "no comment" response.
The second time it came up, Arum took charge. This was also no surprise. Nor was the tone in which he addressed the question: Dismissive, arrogant, and angry.
Angry that anyone would have a serious question. One that wasn't about Manny's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, or his Hennessy endorsement, or his political career and gosh darn, just how DOES Manny deal with all these DISTRACTIONS?
"I think it would behoove all of the press to stop dealing in generalities. The fighter can hire anyone he wants to be a trainer," Arum began. It was already clear where he was going to go.
"There was a period of time where this guy dealt in steroids. But that's old, old news."
Arum went on to argue that strength and conditioning coaches no longer had a need for steroids, or other illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
"You can achieve all of the benefits that you used to achieve with steroids with natural supplements. Without any risk of illegality.
"The last thing they would do is deal in illegal substances."
It was an old trick that Arum and other promoters -- but especially Arum, as it's sort of a signature tactic for him -- have employed for years. It's less a sneaky lawyer's trick than it is schoolyard pressuring.
"Hey, guys. This is dumb. Anyone who thinks this way is dumb, so don't think this way. You want to be smart, don't you?"
He might as well have offered a half-empty pack of Camels to the foolish and naïve kids on the line.
And then he ended it with the most debatable line of all.
"The steroid problem is fading into the past," he concluded.
Bob Arum is a great promoter. He's one of those guys who can sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves. But when he's pressed on matters like this, it's always the same scare tactic. Always the same bullying. Always the same attempt to dismiss, to shuck and jive, and to brush under the rug a serious question.
I said earlier today that Team Pacquiao needed to address the question firmly to avoid skepticism from those in the media, from fans, and from those who already doubt the legitimacy of the sport, who believe that the "steroid problem" is anything but fading.
Well, we got an answer. It was firm. But it wasn't one that will turn back the skeptics.