Steroid users are getting ripped by the public in massive doses these days. It's the new rage to rage over. Rip Alex Rodriguez and shred Jose Canseco.

"His physique is pharmaceutically altered."

"His performance is out of a bottle."

"Let's tear the bums back down to size."

Those heroes who let us down.

It's not just the high-paid athletes who have a problem. Last month, the actor who played a steroid dealer in the movie "The Wrestler" was busted for, well, selling steroids. The movie's main character, played by Mickey Rourke, suffers a heart attack in large part because of his steroid use. And yet, despite teetering on the verge of a second myocardial infarction, he climbs back into the ring to the adoration of screaming fans. Just like we expect our heroes to do. Death in this way can catapult a man from the top rope to icon status. Unless, of course, he brings others down with him, like the way Chris Benoit from the WWE did back in 2007, when he killed himself and his family.

And yet, there was a less publicized tragedy connected to the movie. Last month, an extra, a wrestler by the name of Paul E. Normous, died of an apparent substance overdose. He was 33. He never lived to taste the full national sensation that would glorify his kind in a way no one would have predicted. All that glory missed, after a life spent chasing glory. Tragedy, defined.

What makes a Paul E. Normous? I can't exactly answer that. But I once knew a little something about Paul Fuchs, the reserved college kid who would later morph into Paul E. Normous. Better than Paul I knew our college fraternity, Beta Phi Epsilon, whose culture would baptize the future Paul E. Normous.

I remember how the female students at SUNY-Cortland worshiped the physiques and how the coaches loved the enhanced performances. The crowds crammed the body-building competitions and the brothers craved the action. The cheers still echo some 15 years later.

I can also recall a drunken conversation, when the future Paul E. Normous showed off a new tongue ring he was quite excited about. He was dejected after my warning that the real world would not stand for such a thing, and to get rid of it, along with the tattoo he was planning. "Why do people get judged by how they look?" he naively asked. "Cause they do. That's why," I answered. He nodded, and wandered off, caught in his own conflicted head. The next time I heard of Paul Fuchs he was Paul E. Normous, and found dead in his parents' house in Sloatsburg, N.Y.

We will always love the prettiest, strongest and most elite, and scorch them with equal zeal for sins that don't really affect our lives. If we were as concerned as our public outcries suggest, we might try examining for a minute what drives them to be that way at any cost. Better not to know. Better not to imagine what role our nonstop hero worship is playing in pushing people to these extremes. Because if we did, we might have to stop cheering long enough to burn ourselves in effigy right alongside them