Yes, children, reigning NL MVP and Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun has failed a test for banned substances.
I am going to say that again, because I want to make my position on this matter very, very clear:
Ryan Braun has failed a test for banned substances.
There’s no way around this, there’s no way to defend or apologize for it. It’s a tough pill to swallow, Brewers fans – but then again pill swallowing is probably how we find ourselves in this situation today. The way it looks now, if everything from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Fox Sports, and ESPN’s accounts hold up, Ryan Braun knowingly took a substance that he was not allowed to take and did so without telling officials from Major League Baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers. It wasn’t a steroid or a PED, but it was a ‘prohibited substance’. There’s an easier way to say it – he cheated. It doesn’t matter to me if it was a Steroid, a Performance Enhancing Drug, a prohibited substance, or any other euphemism you want to use to justify it. He cheated.
I want to make something else clear as well. I’m not mad at Ryan Braun. I won’t apologize for him, I won’t defend him and I certainly will not justify his actions, but I’m not mad at him.
In fact, I should probably thank him.
I should thank Ryan Braun because he confirmed a long-held suspicion in the back of my brain. You can’t trust ballplayers.
I didn’t have a ‘Golden Era’ of baseball. I grew up in the Steroid Era, and everything we looked at in baseball was like trying to watch a magic show when you’re a grown-up. You know something deceitful is going on, but everybody just kind of sat back and let it slide because it was entertaining. An entire country was implicit in a crime and it took them so long to realize it that the ebb and flow of banned substances into America’s Pastime will never stop. Good players and bad players and stars and busts will all, at some point, get caught taking something they’re not supposed to. That was the Steroids Era, that was the game I grew up with. The ramifications of that time have led us into the Era of Doubt.
The doubt and suspicion is the worst part when it comes to Braun. I don’t care if he didn’t really test positive for Steroids. I don’t care if he somehow manages to have the world’s first ever false-positive and he is exonerated on all charges. It’s the suspicion and the doubt and the uneasy feeling of the fact that I can never trust Ryan Braun again. I can’t trust him because he – not the Media, not doctors, just Braun himself – put that doubt in my mind.
There should never be room for doubt or suspicion in this. That’s the biggest problem. Ryan Braun made room for suspicion when he took whatever substance he was taking. As a professional athlete and a grown-up you ought to know what’s going into your body. You better believe that if I was making $105 Million dollars that I would avoid ever being in a situation where someone might hear from somebody that I was possibly maybe thinking about thinking about mulling over the thought of someday taking something that might be misconstrued as anything close to being considered a banned substance at any time in the near future. That’s how serious you need to be in this Era of Doubt. Braun wasn’t, and now he has to face the firing squad in the Court of Public Opinion and I can’t be one of the people who tries to help him.
A lot of people I know who are Brewers and Braun fans today are blaming the media for confusing the story. There’s nothing to be confused about. Even if it turns out to be fairly innocuous, he failed a test. It is true that in nine prior seasons of professional baseball he never failed a test. He just happened to fail a test during his most prolific statistical season in his young career. Were his numbers influenced by this substance? Was he taking other substances that he didn’t get caught for? These things aren’t really pertinent at this point in the discussion, but this is what happens in the Era of Doubt. These questions will never go away for Braun, whether ESPN jumped the gun on a story or not. It’s not their fault – Buster Olney didn’t force feed Braun a supplement.
I never had a ‘Golden Era’ of baseball, and it looks like I never will. Nearly all of my baseball ‘heroes’ turned out to be dirty, and now I can add one more to that list. But I’m not mad at Ryan Braun for being a dirty player, and I do want to thank him. I want to thank him for proving once and for all that we – as baseball fans and (less so) members of the media – cannot place athletes on Olympian Pedestals any longer. We cannot, even for a second, forget that athletes will do anything they can to win and often times that means cutting a corner or skirting the rules. Even if they’re really great guys and put up great numbers and have never done anything like this before.
Thank you, Ryan Braun, for reminding me of that. I won’t ever forget.
I hope he’s exonerated of everything, of course. But I don’t live in the Era of Hope, I live in the Era of Doubt.