Few places, in all Los Angeles, are so quintessentially American as the cheap seats at Dodger Stadium, where crowds come night after night to scoff junk food, drink $10 beers, and watch mostly overweight multi-millionaires play the national sport.
I was there again on Sunday, doffing my tattered baseball cap (a garment my father likes to call an "IQ reducer"), while the stadium organ belted out "The Star-Spangled Banner", and the Dodgers lost a game they should have won against their arch-rivals, San Francisco.
These are turgid times for the club, which last week was rocked by perhaps the biggest scandal in recent American sporting history. Its star "slugger" Manny Ramirez, a crowd-pleasing Dominican with flamboyant dreadlocks, tested positive for performance-enhancing substances.
Ramirez, who earns $25m a year, combined a celebrity profile to rival David Beckham with a knack for smashing enormous home runs. Before the shock news, he grinned from billboards across LA, and had a section of the stadium named "Mannytown" in his honour.
Now, though, his name is mud. This isn't just a local tragedy: it spells disaster for the entire reputation of baseball, which has in recent years seen icons like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees hitter famed for his friendship with Madonna, caught 'roid-handed.
Amazingly, baseball's authorities only started properly drug-testing and banning players in 2005. Even now, sanctions against cheats are outrageously light. Ramirez, like other first-time culprits, will be suspended for about two months. He'd have to be caught three times to be banned for life.
Quite how this sits with the sport's apple-pie image of any sport is anyone's guess. A report in USA Today this week noted that attendance at baseball games is down 5 per cent. It blamed the recession. But I can't help wondering if public cynicism isn't also to blame.
Beauty makes a boob
Speaking of fallen idols, the thick-as-mince local beauty queen, Carrie Prejean, was this week caught violating Miss USA rules by posing topless for "glamour" photographs. The pageant's owner, Donald Trump, is refusing to remove her Miss California title, claiming that "the pictures were lovely". Meanwhile Prejean, who controversially opposes gay marriage in order to promote "family values", sees no hypocrisy in having brazenly flaunted her cans.
Baldwin's 'foolish' regret
Irony doesn't always "work" in the US. But neither does slapstick. Alec Baldwin, 51, was asked by Vanity Fair to name his greatest regret. His reply: "Faking a heart attack on April Fool's Day 2004, for my daughter and my girlfriend." Oh, to have been a fly on the wall...Reuse content