Some athletes play well enough to become household names at one point in their careers. Over the summer, Ryan Braun did so a second time for all the wrong reasons.
Here was a promising young talent who had the hearts of Brewers fans in the palm of his hand. In just a few months, he threw it all away.
The national media, other players and fans have done an effective job vilifying him as a boldfaced liar. But what’s most intriguing now is what he’ll do next.
Brewers fans are understandably heartbroken over one of their team’s players cheating and spewing mistruths about it. As human beings, however, we can all sympathize with the desire to correct a mistake.
Braun took “step one” by formally apologizing last week in the form of a letter to the fans. Based on the text of that letter, improving his humility and attitude toward the situation should be his next step.
Within the three-paragraph statement, Braun managed to use “I” 23 times. By making himself the subject of nearly every sentence, he comes across as totally selfish.
He also expressed that he came forward because, “I knew it was time for me to tell the truth and accept my punishment.” In the age of digital media where most fans stay constantly informed on current events, it’s not exactly “telling the truth” if they’ve already heard it from everyone but you.
It gives the impression of talking down to his audience’s intelligence, as does another claim that there were “no excuses” for his actions.
If there are no excuses for taking performance-enhancing drugs, then why take them at all? Rather than using the tired, clichéd cop-out, Braun should explain the pressures behind his decision and his experience of the drugs’ effects. That would at least be beneficial to public understanding of baseball’s ever-permeating issue.
It’s too late for Braun to take the Andy Pettitte route by being honest early on and humbly playing out the rest of his career. To that point, however, Pettitte was never the centerpiece of an entire franchise. That’s what makes Braun’s response so important.
To his credit, Braun was right about the system being “flawed” when he gave his now infamous statement of innocence a year ago. The fact that he and others were able to outfox the MLB’s drug policy means more explanations and “apologies” will follow.
Unlike Pettitte, it’s highly unlikely that what Braun does between now and the end of his career will save his image, although it will certainly set a standard for the perpetrators of years to come.