Let Go of Your Anger Toward Braun

Milwaukee Brewers@ Chicago Cubs on 9/16/09 in CHicago.  Brewer win 7-4

Neil Weinberg is the Founder of New English D and writes at Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44.

Ryan Braun made a mistake. He used a banned substance. Then he won his appeal on a chain of custody issue and made a bold, defiant statement. He trashed the collector. He asked us to believe in him. You know how the story ends. Or at least where it goes next.

Braun’s name showed up in documents connected to Biogenesis and he ultimately agreed to serve a 65 game suspension as punishment. On Thursday, he released a statement in which he apologized for taking the banned substance and for his actions since.

But that didn’t seem to satisfy anyone. It rekindled the vitriol that had recently been reserved for Alex Rodriguez who continues to play during his own appeal. Braun is public enemy number one, again.

I’m not writing in defense of Braun. He broke the rules and he lied about it. He cheated, got away with it, and still came out swinging at that infamous press conference in February 2012. He deserves the punishment and he certainly deserves to lose your respect. But the hatred is strange. It’s not surprising, but it’s still over the top.

What would you have done if you were Braun? Could you really be sure you wouldn’t be tempted by PEDs? Would you have come clean the second the test came back positive? Would you have admitted to using even after you won your appeal? The best you could probably say is that you wouldn’t have attacked the collector.

But as Braun said in his statement, he was delusional. He couldn’t admit to himself that he had cheated. He rationalized his behavior so that he could live with the guilt. It’s a pretty common reaction in the aftermath of a big mistake. But the dye was cast. Once he went down that road, there was nothing he could do to reverse course. He couldn’t push back the hands of the clock and undo the damage, so he just marched on until the Biogenesis scandal hit and it started all over.

Braun finally came to terms with the mistakes he made and admitted to them in his apology on Thursday. You don’t have to forgive Braun or go buy his jersey, but you also shouldn’t be so angry.

If you expect every star athlete to be a model citizen, you’re asking to be deceived. Being born with immense talent doesn’t mean you’re born with impeccable character. A good work ethic doesn’t mean a good sense of ethics. They’re allowed to make mistakes. They’re allowed to be in denial about those mistakes. And they’re allowed time to understand what they’ve done. Just like the rest of us.

A friend once told me the basis of all misunderstanding is that we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. We can only see what Braun did and not what Braun thought. I imagine that if we could see into his mind, it would look a lot more like our own than we want to imagine.

You would forgive Braun if he was your best friend. You’d say he was a good guy who made a bad choice. You have friends and family members who have made mistakes and you stuck by them. Just because you don’t know Braun doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the same chance to make amends.

That’s really all that I’m asking. You don’t have to love him, but apathy is much more appropriate than anger. Unless the collector he attacked is reading this, Braun didn’t do anything that really affected any of you.

Even more than that, Braun’s crimes don’t measure up to others that we don’t seem to care much about as a society. Where’s the outrage about the drunk driver winning the Triple Crown? Do we boycott games if one of the players has allegations of violence against women hanging over their heads? NFL fans cheer for Michael Vick and Nike signs him to an endorsement deal, but Ryan Braun is the outcast. The cheat. The liar.

Does that really make sense? Braun tried to use an artificial substance to make himself better, got caught, and lied about it. He’s not a good guy, but the reaction isn’t in line with the offense. Others have done worse and felt less hatred. Is it because Braun was at the pinnacle of the sport? Is that why he’s such a target?

Normally, I try to ignore the off-field sideshows and focus on the players between the lines, but this situation calls for some cooler heads. Everyone is getting so angry about something that seems so predictable.

Someone tried to get ahead, got caught, and tried to talk their way out of it. That’s all this is. It’s not Braun’s responsibility to teach your children about integrity. It’s not his job to be a role model. It’s his job to be in the lineup and crush baseballs. The Brewers pay him to do that, the rest is an unfair burden to place on anyone.

Not everyone can be Stan Musial – a gentleman and a master of his craft. Just because Braun is famous, doesn’t mean you should expect him to be perfect. You wouldn’t judge a truck driver or a bank teller so harshly.

It’s not so much that Braun deserves better, it’s that you shouldn’t allow Braun to move you to anger. There’s an ugliness to the reaction that’s undignified. To judge Braun, you need to be better than Braun. And to be better than Braun, you need to be above the personal attacks for which you criticized him.

I’m disappointed in Braun. I’m not angry. He did this to himself and he’ll pay the price. The best lesson you can take from this whole ordeal is that if you want there to be role models in the world, you have to be one yourself. And a really good step in that direction isn’t to call Braun names, or even cheer while a pitcher throws at another alleged cheater. The first step is to accept Braun’s apology and give him a chance to make it right.

That’s what I’ll be doing and I hope you will join me.

  • Hoosierdodger

    I believe that I am becoming nauseous…….

  • dwightevansfan

    I’m not angry so much as disappointed: disappointed that the MVP was taken away by Braun, disappointed that Braun turned an innocent Fed Ex carrier into a scapegoat, disappointed that Braun deceived players into coming to his defense when he knew he was guilty, and disappointed that Braun has made and will continue for years to make a substantial financial gain from breaking the rules. I don’t expect Braun to be a role model, I expect him to be honest and play by the rules.

  • Scott

    Nut up, Ryan…get in front of a camera, answer the tough questions and take your beating. The statement the Brewers…errrr, you released isn’t going to placate anyone until it comes out of your mouth. You can do it now or you can do it in the spring when once again you’ll be a major distraction to the team that’s paying you 105 million bucks.

    • William Gregory

      I’m sure he’ll speak with the media. With Brewer majority owner Mark Attanasio involved in his “apology tour”, you can bet on it.

  • Leo Gutierrez

    My anger is all about the money, Roids made MLB MONEY, raised salaires which raised ticket prices

  • RetortForm

    It’s shocking to me that Peter Gammons would be taken in by this patently false ‘apology release’. It’s the clear sign of someone who desperately wants it to be true, and is not using his thinking brain. Braun lied, got caught and released a phony statement used to defend himself in his various lawsuits. There has been no actual clarification here.

    • Scott

      Gammons didn’t write the piece. Neil Weinberg did.

    • William Gregory

      It’s shocking to me that you are unable to read a byline, and identify an article’s author.

      • RetortForm

        If Gammons didn’t agree with the content, it wouldn’t be here.

  • JonB

    I’m not angry because Braun is a failed role model. I’m not angry because he lied to his friends, fans and employer. I’m angry because Braun deliberately and in cold blood tried to destroy the reputation and career of an innocent person. And yes, I would be just as angry at a truck driver or bank teller who treated a fellow human being so shabbily. If that kind of behavior doesn’t make you angry, your moral compass is in need of recalibration.

    • William Gregory

      Braun is not, nor should he be considered a role model. He is an entertainer, much like an actor, or a musician. He hits a baseball for a living.

      As a society, we need to re-examine who we hold up as role models for our children. Parents are role models. Teachers are role models. Entertainers help us pass time in our mundane lives. They are not exceptional moral authorities.

  • ifdajon

    So what did he do to himself, exactly? Give up his contract? Nope. Erase his stats? Nope. Vacate his awards? Not a chance. Should I shed a tear for him because of his mistakes? Give me a god damn break,

    Did he embarrass himself? Sure, quite a bit, but that’s a small price to pay. The ones who will really pay are the Brewer fans who will have to deal with this blow back on a much more personal level every time they go to the yard, in a way that Braun will be mostly shielded from. Sure, he’ll get heckled from afar, but he won’t have opposing team’s fans screaming in his face about his indiscretions. We will.

    When Barry was still playing, I hated him. Still do. He manipulated the contests and his own performance by utilizing enhancements that most other players refrained from getting involved with. That’s a polite way of saying what we all know went down. Due in large part to Bonds’ calculated cheating, he now technically leads the all time home runs lists; single season and career. (In my opinion, Roger Maris and Henry Aaron still hold those respective records) Though I was in awe watching him bat, it was very apparent that it was a sham. Athletes don’t peak after 40. Period.

    I hated Bonds, and I hated his fans. I couldn’t believe that there were people out there that had this cheating son of a bitches back. So now, as I look at Braun, I hope you’ll pardon me if I don’t shower him with sympathy. The way I look at it, I hated Bonds, I should level the same emotions towards Ryan. At least I’ll be honest and consistent. And that’s a hell of a lot more than I can say for #8.

  • Richard Moore

    Weinberg does come across as a fool. He completely ignores Braun’s biggest fault, the race baiting aspect of Braun’s attempt to destroy an individual by telling others the reason for his problems are antisemitism. Shame on him. Is Weinberg really that stupid or is it just ok to race bait in his mind?

    • Neil Weinberg

      Selected references to Braun’s behavior and treatment of the collector:

      “He trashed the collector.”
      “came out swinging at that infamous press conference in February 2012. He deserves the punishment and he certainly deserves to lose your respect.”
      “The best you could probably say is that you wouldn’t have attacked the collector.”
      “he was delusional.”
      “He’s not a good guy,”
      “It’s not so much that Braun deserves better,”

      Perhaps you’ll notice I didn’t use the collector’s name either. Braun doesn’t get a pass for insinuating that someone is prejudiced, but I also don’t think it’s right to put the collector’s name or those accusations in print even to explain that they likely aren’t true. All that serves to do is keep the images together in people’s minds.

      To be honest with you, an attack on someone’s integrity is an attack on their integrity. It doesn’t really matter what you claim their motivation is. There’s at least 10 acknowledgements in the piece about Braun’s wrongdoing and if you think the message of the piece is to give him a pass, I suggest you read it again.

      The message is that you shouldn’t allow someone’s bad behavior to move you to behave badly as well.

    • William Gregory

      Richard, do you read the news? Did you see that Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki, two of the three players named by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan as being contacted by Braun, have spoken out about this? They said this conversation never happened. Votto even offered to provide his AT&T phone records to prove it didn’t. So no, Braun did not contact Tulo, Votto and Matt Kemp to court public support in advance of his suspension overturn. Ryan Braun did NOT call Dino Laurenzi, Jr an anti-semitic Cubs fan. The report by Passan, and the subsequent piggyback reports by Buster Olney and T.J. Quinn of ESPN (sports media’s equivalent of TMZ), are patently false. And what you are doing, parroting Yahoo and ESPN, is perpetuating false information.

      Look, I am a Brewers fan, born in Milwaukee. I went to my first Brewers game in 1977, and though I live in Texas, I bleed Brewer blue and gold. I am as big a Ryan Braun fan as there is (notice I did not use the past tense there?). Last time I checked, Ryan Braun was a human being, and as a member of that same human race, I know that we often make mistakes. Sometimes we lie, and we get away with it because we don’t have MLB and their infinite resources, or ESPN and their “investigative reporters” digging through our garbage looking for incriminating evidence of wrongdoing. And as a Brewers fan, yes, I am disappointed in Ryan, too. The city of Milwaukee and the Brewers have been linked with a scandal, and Brewer fans deserve better. For the better part of the last two years, I’ve been confronted with questions about “Braun the scumbag” every time I’ve identified myself as a Brewers fan. But at the end of the day, instead of childishly hating Braun, demanding that he give his money back, or calling for Mark Attanasio to push Doug Melvin to trade him, I’ve forgiven him. It would be hypocritical for me as a man that has made mistakes to sit here in judgement of Braun. He has apologized to everybody he feels he wronged. He realizes he made a mistake, and that he has to work to get back in our good graces. But I am going to give him that chance.

      Richard, you need to learn to use your mind. Ask questions, and don’t take everything ESPN publishes as the bible. Because more often than not, they get the facts wrong.

  • don_smythe

    Let’s play devil’s advocate:

    1) Please come up with a quantifiable percentage of how much better PEDs make a player? 10%? 20%. I doubt there is one.

    2) Why do players like Braun, A-Rod, etc. take PEDs? To make themselves better players — more valuable to their teams and to themselves (they’ll make more money). They also put on a better show for fans who pay their way into the ballpark and watch/listen. Contrast that with a player (let’s call him Mickey Mantle) who’s beloved even though he had to miss games because he had an alcohol problem (and wasn’t the All-American boy the media made him out to be). Which one is defrauding the fans?

    Also, What makes taking PEDs now different from taking bennies, pep pills, etc. In decades past? Isn’t the objective (improving performance) the same?

    3) Baseball writers, as a group, lead the world in sanctimony. Gaylord Perry, who wrote a book about how he cheated, is in the Hall of Fame. So is Whitey Ford, who made a living cutting the ball (see Ball Four for one reference). Yet guys who have never tested positive for a banned substance (Mike Piazza, for one) are deemed not worthy of induction (for now, anyway) because writers feel they must have done something, even without evidence. Barry Bonds, who never tested positive for PEDs (but did for other substances) likely won’t make the HOF because he didn’t kiss the ass of the media and wasn’t a “nice guy” (as opposed to, say, Andy Pettite, David Ortiz and Jason Giambi).

    Frankly, this whole PED issue is just another hammer for the owners (and their backers in the media) to hold over the players.

  • William Gregory

    By the way, Neil, good article overall. Ryan has been suspended. He’s lost a lot of money (endorsements plus about $3 mil salary), and his reputation has been tarnished (admittedly self-inflicted). He has apologized to Bud Selig, MLBPA head Michael Wiener, his manager, coaching staff and teammates, as well as Laurenzi, Jr. He also sent an apology directly to Brewer fans (I got my email right after his public apology was posted on the Milwaukee Journal). I believe he has been humbled. He has to work to get back in our good graces, but I believe he can. And I don’t think we’ll see any change in his performance. He would have been the MVP last year if the Brewers had made the playoffs. I feel he should have been a co-MVP with Kemp in 2011. And he was off to an MVP caliber start in 2013 before the nerve issue with his thumb (.323, 9 HR and 30 RBI through 40 games. A .984 OPS).

    Give the man a chance to repair the bridges he’s burned. I for one will cheer for him on opening day.

  • Stephen Stokes

    “Ryan Braun made a mistake.” What? In the first sentence we get this? Why are we the fans and media demi-gods like Gammon so insistant on saying that the player “made a mistake”. These people did not make a mistake.Clearly a mistake is when someone makes an error by poor reasoning or insufficient knowledge. Braun and every other player in any sport who gets caught did not err through poor reasoning. They did it on purpose!
    They underestimated their ability to cut corners and succeed. They might have been delusional. The might have miscalculated. They were not confused. They took deliberate steps to break rules. They did not make mistakes. Stop making them sympathetic figures.

  • joshkvt

    I’ll remain angry with Braun for the same reason I’ll remain angry with Armstrong. Sure, few of us could definitively say we would not have taken PED. But I can definitively say I would not trash a man, who was simply doing his job, by calling him anti-Semitic in an effort to create hatred toward that man and make myself appear the victim. I can definitively say I would not accuse a health-care professional — who had dedicated herself to helping me become a mega-rich champion — of being a blackmailing prostitute. The DUI comparison only works if Cabrera tried to get off by claiming the bartender was an Indians fan who purposely contaminated his drinks and then called the police as soon as Cabrera drove off. Mistakes should be forgiven. Setting out to destroy another person’s life solely to protect your own riches, not so much. If Braun writes the collector a check to cover his lost income — past and future — and throws in whatever a jury might award as defamation damages, then his apology will be sincere. It might hurt a little more than a lawyered-up written apology, but it would be massively more meaningful.

  • Keith Hopkins

    Made a mistake? Bull-effin-Shit. Sure, I would be tempted to use PEDs to get a better paycheck. But, he lost all respect with me when he trashed the guy for doing his job. What has he done to repair that situation? I haven’t heard a single word. And, I’m sure that Braun would want everyone to know IF he has begun paying the guy for the reputation he has tarnished. I would love to hear that the urine collector filed a lawsuit against Braun for slander. Braun is the typical athlete with feelings of entitlement. And, stop telling me how I should feel towards him, that my hatred is over the top. It isn’t.