Buzz: What's Braun really sorry for?

Published Aug. 23, 2013 1:00 a.m. ET

Ryan Braun put out a 944-word letter of remorse Thursday. He stopped a little short of confessing exactly which substances led to his MLB drug suspension, but otherwise it was a full and satisfying expression of remorse for taking some bad stuff and for the bratty way he acted after he got accused of it.

That apology said the right stuff, and I’ll go ahead and accept that he’s being sincere about it, even though Braun doesn’t deserve to benefit from the doubt anymore.

It’s just that I think he either seriously overestimated the number of people affected by his suspension or this apology was written less with the goal of actually righting wrongs and more with the goal getting everyone to move on. Or both.

I was reading that apology thinking, “Why am I reading this right now? Why is this guy apologizing to me?”

I don’t play for the Milwaukee Brewers. I didn’t collect his sample. I’m not paying his salary and I won’t miss him a lick. Outside of being the impetus for this column, Ryan Braun has had no impact whatsoever on my life, and yet here I am reading his tearful apology letter and evaluating its sincerity.

I don’t believe Braun’s explanation that he used a couple of substances for a short time to help him recover from an injury. I wouldn’t believe any baseball player who said that. I bet most Brewers fans feel that way, and I’m sure rival fans feel that way.

So who was that line for?


Sports are a zero-sum environment. It’s nice that Braun is apologizing, I guess. But if he’s as concerned about the fans as he purports to be in that apology statement, he probably should have appealed his suspension instead of giving himself up to “minimize the burden on everyone (he) had so negatively affected.”

Milwaukee Brewers fans, like all fans, don’t care what creams these guys are rubbing on their bodies or what’s in the lozenges they’re swallowing. As long as nobody gets caught and the ball keeps flying over the fence, everybody’s happy. People don’t seem to care if ballplayers are using steroids, they just don’t want to know hear about it. Last thing fans want is their star player surrendering to Major League Baseball.

This Braun character is going to get booed at every MLB stadium he plays in until the next performance-enhancing drug scandal distracts everybody, and this apology letter will do nothing to quiet those jeers.

I don’t really give a rip about the “sanctity of baseball” and I’m not sure the positives of drug-testing athletes (mild deterrence, curiosity) outweigh the negatives (national publication of all the cool drugs the pros are doing, intrusion of privacy). But no matter how you feel about the moral implications of professional athletes using PEDs, you have to consider that every story like Braun’s or Alex Rodriguez’s reinforces the notion among kids that these kinds of drugs are simply part of the game. And the problem is not that these drugs mess up the statistics, it’s that they mess up people’s bodies and minds.

So what Braun owes society the most is, in essence, an apology for getting caught, an apology for helping spread the word about how well steroids work. He says he started using them late in the 2011 season. That’s the year he won the MVP award.

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t in the MVP race that year. Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder were, but I imagine Braun could just call them if he wanted to apologize for cheating the competition.

It seems more likely that this apology is part of Braun’s strategic goal of getting reporters to stop asking him questions about all this. Like I said, I accept that Braun is sincerely sorry for all the trouble he’s caused. But the more you ask yourself, “What does this really accomplish?” and “Who was this written for?” the more it starts to look like it was written for Braun with the goal of getting everyone to move on.

Maybe he deserves that. All people do, don’t they? The chance to acknowledge a mistake and put it in the past is a simple dignity that people with dignity offer other people. But you don’t get to move on until you acknowledge your mistake. That’s the way humans do it.

Braun is doing that dance, but he’s not that important. He’s an excellent player, but this isn’t Barry Bonds. This isn’t Roger Clemens. It isn’t like Ryan Braun was this Ken Griffey Jr. figure, and a PED suspension would ruin everybody’s childhood. Ryan Braun is just a guy, just a guy who’s trying to hold on to the vapor of an athletic career for as long as he can, just like everybody else. And when he’s gone, there will be another Ryan Braun to hit the baseball over the fence and be everybody’s darling for a year or two.

I don’t blame him for writing what he wrote. It’s what he had to do. But that’s about the best thing I can say about it — he did what he had to do.

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