Monday afternoon it was announced that Ryan Braun would be suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season by Major League Baseball for violations of the Basic Agreement and Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. This penalty includes the final 65 games of the season as well as any playoff games the Brewers may participate in, as unlikely as that appears to be at the moment.
This was a devastating blow to Ryan Braun. His career and reputation will never be the same from this point forward, especially after his guilt ridden apology that all but alluded to a full admission of guilt. But, he is not the only one left to pick up the pieces from what is undoubtedly a historic decision. Everyone involved with the situation is left with so many more questions than answers.
This includes Major League Baseball as they manage the delicate balance of being a strict enforcer of the drug policy and but also the purveyor of something that is meant to be entertainment. At what point was baseball most popular? During the steroid era, of course.
The Milwaukee Brewers have to deal with the aftermath of choosing the wrong superstar. If you recall, a few years back the small market Brewers were forced into a situation where they had to choose which super-star to pay – the super athletic Braun or the power hitting behemoth Prince Fielder. The Brew Crew chose Braun and now the decision couldn’t look any more wrong. Sure, Braun won an MVP and pushed the Brewers within two wins of the World Series, but now they are facing a potential financial windfall that could cripple them for years.
Then there are the fans, the very same people who have stood behind and rallied around Ryan Braun when his first PED scandal broke. The same fans who have bought his jersey’s, paid hand over first for tickets to see him play, and even begged and pleaded for the Brewers to extend his contract. Now these fans are left holding the bag, not knowing exactly how to react other than with anger and blind rage.
That’s where things get even more complicated. How should fans react when the very people they support year in and year out let them down? At what point do we go from being upset over a situation that has disappointed us on some of the deepest levels of fandom to crossing the line? Simply put, how much is too much?
It’s completely understandable that some fans will be angrier than others. It’s only natural. However, a problem arises when we begin comparing someone who lied and cheated to some of the most despicable people the world has ever seen. What Ryan Braun did was wrong and the subsequent cover up was even worse, but that doesn’t make him a monster. A bad person? Perhaps. But not the evil dark overlord that the angry Twitter mob from Monday afternoon would lead you to believe.
Life is not that simple. It is not a series of absolutes. It is not black and white, as much as we wish or like to think that it is. As bland and generic as it sounds, life is made up of varying shades of gray. As simple as it would be to tar and feather Ryan Braun, think about the situation from his or any other athlete’s point of view. It’s easy to say you would or wouldn’t do something in order to get an edge, but how do you know until you are placed in that situation? You don’t and until you are placed in that situation you may never know.
We like to believe that we are all guided by a moral high ground that would prevent us from ever doing anything wrong, but what about the handfuls of athlete’s busted each and every year for entrusting their performance to doctors, pills, and hypodermic needles? Don’t you think they believed they had the same moral high ground? Of course they did, but the allure of money, fame, and power eventually becomes too much, leading many down a path from which there is no happy ending.
Now please, don’t mistake this as a defense of what Ryan Braun did or outrage against the suspension handed down on him by Major League Baseball. It is not that. He cheated, he lied, and he dragged others down in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the things he chose to do. He dug his grave and got what he deserves. Ryan Braun could never play in another game again and I would be okay with it. But in the grand scheme of life and the things that really matter, Ryan Braun’s cheating and lies are nothing more than a drop in the bucket.
So go ahead and be mad. Be as angry as you want to be. Let Ryan Braun know that you are disappointed in the decisions he made. But please, keep it in the proper perspective. Baseball and sports are not life. They are simply a very small part of it.