Another well-known and well-paid athlete is sincerely apologizing because he disappointed his fans, let down his teammates and – oh, yeah – got caught.
Ryan Braun, the All-Star outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, is the latest sports hero to confess to using performance-enhancing drugs. Well, he didn’t exactly confess, but he did acknowledge his guilt, sort of, after he was suspended for the rest of the 2013 major league season.
Braun didn’t do that in person, of course. He released a statement – which we assume was written by his agent or somebody in the Brewers’ public relations department – where he said, among other things, that “I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.’’
That statement is disingenuous to the extreme and it’s an insult to baseball fans, especially the ones in Milwaukee, who believed Braun last year when he forcefully denied he used banned substances.
First of all, Braun said that he realizes that he “made some mistakes.’’ But this wasn’t a mistake because he did it fully conscious of what he was doing and he knew it was not acceptable. It’s not like he accidently swallowed pills or fell against a hypodermic needle or whatever it was he did to get those banned substances into his body. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig mentioned multiple violations when he announced that Braun would be suspended for the rest of the 2013 season, a total of 65 games, so it’s not as if he made one mistake that will cost him. He cheated repeatedly and he knew he cheated repeatedly and that is not a mistake – missing the cutoff man is a mistake, but cheating is not.
Braun also said “I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions’’ as if he had a choice. Sure, he’s willing to accept them now because he’s been caught red-handed and he finally realizes that fighting the charges now will make him look even worse than he already does.
Braun is correct, of course, when he says that nobody is perfect. And people in general and sports fans in particular are forgiving when one of their heroes shows just how imperfect he is. But it’s harder to forgive, much less forget, after that person stands in front of television cameras and says that he is innocent when he knows darn well that he isn’t. Pitcher Andy Pettitt of the New York Yankees acknowledged his sins as soon as they were revealed and apologized for them and people were more than willing to forgive him. But Braun looked America in the eye and lied and that’s harder to ignore.
Braun isn’t alone, of course, when it comes to taking banned substances and then righteously denying that he took them. We still remember All-Star Rafael Palmeiro testifying in front of Congress and vehemently denying he took something he shouldn’t have, even pointing his finger at his questioners as if they were the ones who did something wrong. More recently, Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez went on national television to admit that, yeah, he cheated, just about a year after he went on another television program and adamantly denied it. Rodriguez eventually admitted his guilt for the same reason that Braun did – he got caught.
It’s not just baseball, of course, that has been linked to PEDs and the most notable case of lying and then humbly admitting guilt is that of cyclist Lance Armstrong. Like Braun and Rodriguez, Armstrong went on the offensive when first accused of doping and said he was the victim of a witch hunt. And, like Braun and Rodriguez, his loyal fans believed him, simply because they want to believe him so badly.
But Braun’s fan base is a little different. Rodriguez plays for the mighty Yankees, who are loved or loathed by millions across the country. Armstrong was the biggest superstar in a global sport and his impact was far-reaching. But Braun plays in a small-market Midwestern town that embraces its heroes differently than they do in the big city and those fans almost universally supported him when he first issued his heartfelt denials last year. And now those fans have been betrayed.
So, it will be interesting to see how they react next season the first time Braun steps into the batter’s box at Miller Park. He was the city’s biggest hero before this latest news broke and now he’s the city’s biggest fraud and there’s a good chance his legacy will be the latter.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.