(Image: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Now that it’s been over a week since Ryan Braun accepted a 65-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy and basic agreement, professional and amateur pundits have had plenty of opportunity to share their opinions. Some of these reactions have been thoughtful and interesting. Many more have been tedious. Here are five examples of the silliest reactions to the Braun troubles.
1. Braun Must Go!
JSOnline’s editorial board has been a reliable source of lazy scolding throughout the recent Braun revelations. Its editorial in the immediate aftermath of Braun’s suspension was feeble even by the low standards they’ve set for themselves: “Ryan Braun has to go…The Brewers should end their relationship with Braun. Only then can the organization ‘move on.’”
If there has ever been a less self-aware example of cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face, it does not immediately leap to mind. Braun’s $100-million-plus contract and tarnished reputation make it unlikely he could be traded. But even if that were not the case, cutting ties with the Brewer’s most productive player without giving him a chance to atone is just vindictive. It won’t guarantee the Brewers will be a better team in the coming years, or that fans will be more supportive. It might provide short-term gratification to finger-wagging editorial writers, but that won’t help turn around a last-place ball club.
Imagine instead JSOnline wrote an editorial that expressed disappointment in Braun, acknowledged he had a long way to go to earn back the trust of fans, but suggested that redemption could be achieved at some unspecified future time. That would have been unexpected, original, and maybe even uplifting. Instead, they took the easy way out. No wonder no one trusts the media.
2. Braun Hurt Me Personally!
Anyone who listens to sports talk radio has probably heard some version of this complaint, and here’s a tidy example from Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt’s recent online chat: “I stood up for [Braun]. I had his back. His word was good enough for me…Finding out that he was a liar was the worst that could have happened.”
Part of the fun of being a sports fan is getting emotionally invested in teams and players, but we’re all grown-ups here and we need to keep things in perspective. Braun’s dishonesty hurt his teammates, his coaches, his employer, and his friends. As for the fans, he’s a stranger and doesn’t owe us anything. We should be able to root for our team and enjoy players’ accomplishments without thinking they have some kind of obligation to us personally. If we can’t make that kind of separation, we probably shouldn’t embarrass ourselves by grumbling to Tom Haudricourt.
3. Braun is a Cheaty-Cheating-Cheater!
There is no shortage of professional pundits who delight in the opportunity to call Braun a cheater and a liar. For example, the insufferable Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com bores readers with this lame column, which uses the word “cheat” 13 times in a less-than-600-word post. Did you know that Braun is also a liar? Doyel can’t wait to tell you all about it!
I would suggest there’s nothing noble about dumping on someone who got caught doing something he shouldn’t have. We’re not all in the position to break the rules of a sport, but we’re all in the position to be caught lying at some point in our lives. When we are, we’re probably not going to feel we’re beneath the likes of Gregg Doyel, or anyone else who wants to pile on us for making a choice we ended up regretting.
This seems as good a time as any to recall that plenty of sportswriters were willing to look the other way during MLB’s late 90’s “steroid era.” I’m sure Gregg Doyel wouldn’t have – he’s clearly outraged by cheaters.
4. Braun’s Penalty Wasn’t Tough Enough!
You can understand why Arizona baseball fans might be feeling especially uncharitable toward Braun, but this AZCentral.com editorial – headlined “MLB’s soft penalty for Ryan Braun sends the message that cheating is worth the risk” – is frivolous. While it does make a good point that Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for gambling is ridiculous, that doesn’t mean Braun is getting off easy.
To be sure, Braun will still get paid millions of dollars over the next decade. However, his reputation has been destroyed. Braun will never get into the Hall of Fame. His career accomplishments are forever tainted. That’s not inconsequential. Anyone who has worked a day in their life knows that professional respect matters quite a bit. (In fairness, even if Braun had been banned from baseball, Arizona fans would probably think it was too soft.)
5. MLB’s Drug War Must Never Be Restrained!
A variation on “Braun’s Penalty Was Soft!” is unquestioning acceptance of MLB’s pursuit of PED users at any cost. JSOnline is the author of another dreary piece of work that calls for a lifetime ban after one drug violation, suggests teams should be able to violate contracts, and says the MLB players union should lie down and let the league do whatever Bug Selig deems “sensible.”
Some of MLB’s “sensible” tactics so far have reportedly included unscrupulous legal maneuvers and payoffs to self-interested parties. Despite this, JSOnline says MLB needs to “adopt a tougher program.” The fact that Selig’s local newspaper has not made a serious attempt to hold him accountable for MLB’s behavior may not be as disgraceful as cheating, but it’s appalling in its own right.
Amid all these silly reactions, one person’s comments on the Braun situation are notably sensible. On Tuesday, Mark Attanasio released an open letter to Brewers fans that said in part, “We recognize that Ryan has many steps ahead of him to regain your trust and respect…Our responsibility as an organization is to help Ryan appreciate the difficult task ahead of him and to assist in the healing process.”
At least someone is willing to behave like an adult about this whole thing.