On Ryan Braun: Back in June of 2005, Jack Zduriencik – now Mariners GM – and the Milwaukee Brewers selected Ryan Braun, a young man out of the University of Miami, in the first round of the MLB Draft. The next few years saw Braun torch his way through the minors to Milwaukee, sign a couple of very large contracts, lead the Brewers to the playoffs, all building to his 2011 season in which Braun was named MVP. 2011 saw Braun hit .332/.397/(MLB-best) .597 with 33 homers, 111 RBI and 33 steals. Then came the reports of a failed drug test, of which Braun appealed, publicly denying use and standing tall for everyone who had ever been wrongly accused, and later accusing the collector of his sample, one Dino Laurenzi of being an anti-Semite. Fast forward to this summer and with Braun suspended again, this time with a link to the Biogenesis scandal, Braun accepted a suspension of 65-games, and everything fell a little bit more upside down. This loss of balance was not corrected in any way yesterday with Ryan Braun’s press release of over 900 words.
When accusations of Performance Enhancing Drug use arise – with evidence to substantiate them or not – the accused party reacts in one of two ways, generally speaking, and both are very public. One is a quick, speedy and vehement denial, and the other is an apology, an admission that yes, “I used steroids.” We’ve heard these apologies all too many times, though their importance has not diminished. In recent weeks, many in the media have begun to question whether or not we as fans “deserve” apologies from our beloved sports figures that fess up to PED use. One could argue that as paying supporters, there is an expectation that the product we will be presented with is authentic, genuine and legitimate, and not altered in any way. Furthermore, MLB and their union (the Players) have expressed their disdain and distaste for those that step out-of-bounds by using these drugs. So in some regards, we are owed an apology for these reasons.
But that’s not why I’m upset with Ryan Braun. The use of PEDs is enough to hold a cloud over a player and their legacy for a lifetime, and it’s an upsetting reality. No one wants to find out that what these players – often viewed as “heroes” – did was not legitimate. But for Braun, it is not only the knowledge that he used PEDs that bothers me. For, in many cases, we as fans have gotten over this with players, often to the point of forgetting that they “used” (see: David Ortiz, Jerry Hairston Jr., Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts, Edinson Volquez, the list goes on). Many players, like Pettitte, have admitted their wrongdoing, accepted the public backlash, and overtime we as sports fans have forgotten and forgiven.
Braun chose a different path, and his was lined with such sternly worded statements that I find it hard to find a place in my heart for him, as I also find it difficult to trust another word out of his mouth (or off the printer of his lawyer and PR consultants). On February 24, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona, Braun said, “I did not do this” (Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). In 30 minutes, Braun referred to baseball’s drug testing system as, “fatally flawed.” Dictionary.com defines “fatal” as an adjective meaning, “causing or capable of causing death; mortal; deadly.” Even if only referring to his career, it’s obvious that the only thing “fatal” was Braun’s poor decision-making and lack of judgment. I’ll choose not to entirely parse his remarks from that day in February, though one other quote bears mentioning. Braun also said in part:
“If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say, ‘I did it,’…By no means am I perfect, but if I’ve ever made any mistakes in my life I’ve taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point.”
Mr. Braun, sir. It has become known that you did do “this” (intentionally or unintentionally), and you were not the first one to step up and admit culpability. You told us, sir that you “truly believe [d] in [your] heart.” This is why I’m left to believe that your heart is a dark, dark place I don’t want to venture. And finally, sir, you said that you would bet your life “that this substance never entered my body at any point.” I would never ask anyone to do this, but shouldn’t it stand to reason that Braun lost this bet, and that he should have to give up what he wagered (his life)?
Though some may say that we as fans may not always “deserve” the apologies provided to us by professional athletes, they are necessary because they allow us to maintain levels of legitimacy in our lives, to know what is “right” and what is “wrong” and to be able to know when someone is lying. Braun’s canned and filtered statement released Thursday afternoon does not come close enough to righting the wrongs he has done, and I for one will be closely watching to see what Braun’s next steps on his “road to recovery” may be.