By now, nobody needs to tell Mike Leake that Mike Leake was a knucklehead. The court is screening Leake for a diversion program that would wipe clean his record, if Leake admits to stealing six T-shirts. That's all well and good. He'll pay more of his penance in personal embarrassment. The jail of public opinion is far larger than ever before.

At 9:30 Tuesday morning, a producer for a sports talk radio show in Seattle called me. He asked me to "come on the show'' for "a few minutes'' to "talk about the Mike Leake situation.''

Seattle.

We've all lost our minds.

At about the same time Tuesday, Leake's alleged theft of six T-shirts from the downtown Macy's, total retail value $59.88, was front-page news on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, CBSSports.com and Yahoo.com. And of course, Cincinnati.com. Each featured the Reds' pitcher's forlorn-looking mug shot. Don't do anything wrong now. Don't be even marginally known if you do.

Your screw-ups are entertainment for the masses. Because the masses are twitchy and lack attention spans, the time they dwell on your screw-ups likely will be minimal, unless you're Lindsay Lohan. But they will see you, and they do have memories. Some of them.

There is a chance, good or not, that Mike Leake now will be remembered more as the pitcher who signed for more than $2 million two years ago and still supposedly stole cheap T-shirts, than as the pitcher who painted the corners of the plate with 88 mph fastballs.

"Who's pitching for Cincinnati?''

"That Leake guy.''

"Oh, the dude making $425,000 who stole the T-shirts?''

What a shame.

Not excusing what Leake did, supposedly. Saying publicity is smother-ous now. And it's not all good.

When I was 12 and knew everything, my friends Mike and Fred and I went to Pier 1, seeking something to eat. Pier 1 then wasn't Pier 1 now. It was more of a clearinghouse for imported junk. Pier 1 also had weird food: Chocolate-covered insects and Japanese candy wrapped in rice paper that melted in your mouth.

Mike and Fred were hungry that day. I wasn't. They liberated a couple cans of sardines, and were caught. I didn't. Good thing I wasn't hungry.