If you told your Little Johnny that Ryan Braun was a role model, you’re the one who owes Little Johnny an apology.

I’m worn out by the Ryan Braun outrage. I mean, the hacks apparently were surprised to learn that Braun lied about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Apparently the hacks weren’t paying attention. Did they really think the specimen collector contaminated the urine sample?

First, he couldn’t have broken the seal and put it back in place. The boys and girls at the lab would have known. Second, there’s no way he could have monkeyed with the sample without the boys and girls at the lab knowing.

Now if some columnists chose to discount science—and a few did—that’s their problem.

I’m especially worn out by the parents and coaches who say they just don’t know how they’re going to explain it to Little Johnny. This is very troubling.

Ryan Braun was a role model before he was caught cheating, and he’ll be a role model when he returns.

Every Little League should put Braun on a pedestal. Every coach should use him to show those kids how the game should be played.

Check out how he keeps his weight back in the batter’s box and how he explodes into the ball. Check out the discipline of his swing.

He’s one of those rare players who seems in control of the at-bat the moment he steps into the batter’s box. Albert Pujols was like that during his years with the Cardinals. He never lunged, never looked off-balance. Other players marveled at him.

There’s plenty more to admire about Braun, and absolutely nothing has changed in the wake of  his admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs. He plays hard every single night. He runs the bases smartly, seemingly always seeing the entire field.

In short, he’s a gifted baseball player, one of the best of his generation. If I had a son playing Little League baseball, I’d tell him to study him and admire him and do things the way he did them.

Unfortunately, there are too many coaches and parents out there who want to add a moral or ethical component to our jock heroes. This is ridiculous.

Just because a guy can hit a 96-mph fastball does not mean he’s a man of great moral or ethical standing. I can’t comprehend someone connecting the dots, telling their kid that because Ryan Braun was a good player then he should be emulated in other parts of his life.

Because they did connect those dots, they seem hurt that Braun isn’t what they thought. Whose problem is that? That’s on you, buddy.

You took a remarkable set of skills and drew conclusions you never should have drawn. Again, that’s on you. You’re the one who owes Little Johnny an apology.

Because Ryan Braun runs hard to first base does not mean he’s something more than a baseball player.

Babe Ruth was a great player. Does that mean Babe Ruth was the guy you wanted your kid to be? Absolutely not.

Here’s a little secret: Mickey Mantle was no saint, either. He was an amazing player and could be incredibly charming when he chose to be.

But I don’t think you’d want Little Johnny putting him on a pedestal as anything more than a great baseball player.

We do this with our politicians and actors and authors. We seem unable to accept that the gift to write a brilliant sentence or captivate us on the big screen is just that. It’s nothing more.

From the moment Ryan Braun learned that he’d tested positive for a banned substance, I kept wondering why he didn’t just fess up. Maybe he did want people to see him as something larger and more perfect than a mere baseball player. If so, shame on him.

Players have savaged him in their public comments since Braun’s admission that he lied. Some of this is understandable. As several players have said, when one guy tests positive for PEDs, it reflects badly on every player. It wasn’t just that Braun denied using them. It was how he denied him. He portrayed himself as the victim. He was pretty dang self-righteous about it, too.

Maybe Braun couldn’t deal with the fact that his reputation and good name would be gone forever. He’s lucky in that he’s just 29 years old and can write whatever ending to his career he wants to write. But he can never completely rehabilitate his reputation. That’s the price of cheating.

He lied because he was scared and because he was arrogant. Some of the same traits that helped make him a great player—never give in, never admit defeat—surely worked against him in this arena.

He got his ambition and judgement screwed up. But if he’d looked outside his own little cocoon, he could have seen what happened to Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi and others who admitted what they’d done.

They were reminded that we are a forgiving people and that fans want to like these guys. If he’d come out and said he screwed up and that he would work relentlessly to get his good name back, plenty of fans would be willing to forgive and forget.

Even the local Milwaukee newspaper, which had its sensibilities so offended that it’s urging the Brewers to get rid of him, will get over it. Its editors and columnists gave Braun the  benefit of the doubt when he didn’t deserve it. And now they’re clutching their chests and screaming at the awfulness of it all.

Oh please.

He was a good baseball player. He was a good player then, and he’ll probably be a good player in the future.

When he starts speaking up again, when he gets back on the field and starts to produce, the anger will subside. He can again be Ryan Braun the ballplayer. Nothing more. Same as it ever was.

4 Comments

Thanks. Could not agree with you more.

Being sorry takes a lot of courage. But giving forgiveness cleanses the soul.

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