Life imitates art, we’re told. And sometimes it imitates satire. Or slapstick. If you don’t believe me, consider the case of JaMarcus Russell’s “lethargy addiction.”

This started with a column by Gary Peterson of the Contra Costa Times. Peterson, who writes with an edgy humor, had a paragraph that sounded like this:

“Or maybe Russell, rumored to have spent part of the offseason at a clinic being treated for lethargy addiction, shows up for minicamp weighing 230 sculpted pounds and ready to work twice as hard as anyone else in the building. Sorry, didn’t mean to make you blow coffee out your nose first thing in the morning — just trying to cover all bases.”

It was a joke. Get it? Peterson could have written that Russell weighed 600 pounds or had a Pizza Hut installed in his apartment in Mobile, and it would have been no more or less absurd.

But that night, a local Bay Area newscaster went on the air and reported, with a straight face, that Russell was being treated for a malady called lethargy addiction. The genie was out of the bottle.

Today, I Googled “JaMarcus Russell” and “lethargy addiction.” As I started to type this blog entry, it was at 111 entries. By the time I finished (and I type pretty fast) we were up to 113.

Some of them, like a column by the Chronicle’s Scott Ostler and another by ESPN’s Tim Keown, were wry observations on the twisted logic of the media and the sad state of Russell’s reputation. But others had swallowed the bait and were rapidly swimming toward the bottom of the pond.

Slums.boxden.com stated gravely that “Lethargy addiction = Narcotics Addiction.”

A commenter on operationsports.com chimed in to say: “Some of you may take this as a negative, and rightfully so. But I personaly see it as another step in the right direction. Thats two this offseason. He has been dealing with this problem since at least his first offseason, and now he has taken a step forward and got some help.”

A poster on bigfooty.com had this theory: “The Raiders are slowly leaking this information out to the public, having sat on it for a good 6 months — meaning the Raiders aren’t happy with his progress or lack thereof, having cause to cut him if and when the time comes, and they’ll make it so that it is hard for him to sign with other teams.”

Yep, it’s out of control. How long can it be before the Raiders or Russell’s agents are forced to issue a denial or explanation? Gary Peterson, who started it all with a sarcastic but otherwise-innocent comment, might even be getting a little nervous over the brouhaha.

It’s just hard to imagine this stuff happening anywhere but Oakland.

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