As you may have heard, the standing ovation Ryan Braun received from the home crowd before his first at-bat yesterday is a topic of interest, confusion, and incredulity. In his in-game blog, indispensable Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt appeared surprised:
“And, for those who were wondering how Ryan Braun would be received by Brewers fans in his first game back from a PED suspension, he got a huge standing ovation. Do you think that’s over the top or appropriate?”
Even a writer like USA Today/For the Win’s Chris Chase, who says he’s rooting for Braun, posted a popular piece headlined “Giving Ryan Braun a standing ovation was ridiculous.”
Plenty of folks have speculated on the crowd’s motives. In JSOnline’s post on the Twitter reaction to Braun’s ovation, some observers were charitable in their assessment.
#Brewers fans give Ryan Braun a standing ovation… Very forgiving these fans
— Dave Schroeder (@SchroederWBAY) March 31, 2014
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThat’s seems fair. In my estimation, Milwaukee baseball fans are by and large sophisticated, gracious, and willing to embrace someone who has admitted their wrongdoing and apologized. I’m keen to interpret Braun’s ovation as a sign of our high-mindedness. Others were less charitable.
Standing ovation for Braun. Sheep. You’re all sheep. — Bruce Ciskie (@BruceCiskie) March 31, 2014
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsWell, that’s just silly. I expect many more fans to jeer Braun on the road. I wouldn’t (necessarily) begrudge them, but I would guess most of them will be booing just to follow the crowd.
Ultimately, I think most of us know why we cheered Braun as vociferously as we did yesterday. As much as I’d like to think it’s primarily because Brewers fans are uniquely compassionate (and let’s not discount that as the best explanation), there may be something else at work. I think Grant Brisbee is on to something when he observes, “the standing ovation was fan-speak for Screw those people. We still love you, Ryan. That’s what rankles the writers and fans. The ovation was an obscene gesture directed at them.”
I would suggest our motivation was even closer to home. We didn’t loudly cheer Braun to irritate fans or sportswriters in other cities – who have no reason to give Braun the benefit of doubt. We did it to send a message to self-righteous Brewers fans sitting alongside us. We did it because Miller Park is the one place we want to be able to enjoy a game without moralistic blowhards telling us we’re idiots for cheering a guy who served an excessively long suspension. As much as I’d like to pretend it’s Cubs, Cardinals, or Twins fans that are going to annoy me at Miller Park, they can’t hold a candle to holier-than-thou Braun-hating Brewers fans.
With that in mind, one might think our over the top ovation was meant to intimidate Brewers fans into conformity. The message we were arguably sending was, “If you’re a Brewers fan who boos Braun, you’re grossly outnumbered. So don’t make too much of a fuss, because the stairs around here are slippery, and someone could fall down, maybe bump their head – even break an arm or a couple of ribs. And that would be too bad.” There very well may have been rank, unseemly tribalism at play in our boisterous reaction to Braun’s first at-bat.
But seriously, it’s probably that we’re more sympathetic and fundamentally tolerant than other fans. In fact, I’m sure that’s it. Forget I said anything about intimidation.
(Image: Associated Press)