I hate Ryan Braun.
And I hate Lance Armstrong.
Yes, it’s because they’re cheaters. Yes, it’s because they’ve cast a pall over their sports, one of which -- baseball -- I happen to love. And yes, it’s because I have two sons whom I’ve shared that love of baseball with, and now that’s tarnished for all of us.
But it’s something more too.
After all, sports is, sadly, rife with cheaters. Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and a cast of hundreds in baseball. Likewise in cycling: I mean, who isn’t cheating in cycling? Soccer has its match-fixing scandals. Football has its thugs, its wife-beaters, its drug abusers.
So why single out Braun and Armstrong for a special place in the Sports Hall of Hell?
Because both not only cheated, and then lied about cheating, but both were especially and aggressively sanctimonious in doing so.
Armstrong famously proclaimed his innocence -- loudly, legally and for a long time -- all the while trashing anyone who dared challenge him.
And now Braun has done the same.
Last year, after he successfully appealed a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing substances, Braun went before the cameras to proclaim his victory to the world, saying, among other things:
“I tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that's who I am and that's how I've always lived my life....”
“We won because the truth is on my side, the truth is always relevant and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed....”
“Today is about everybody who has ever been wrongly accused and everybody who's ever had to stand up for what is actually right.”
Then, on Monday, in accepting a 65-game suspension for the same transgression, he had this to say -- in a statement, of course, not in front of cameras and reporters:
“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed -- all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”
Sorry, it’s just not that easy. You can’t make those statements in 2012 and then come back now and simply toss out “I am not perfect” and “I realize now that I have made some mistakes” and expect it to all go away.
Once upon a time, the most important thing a man had in this world was his word. Once upon a time, “liar” and “cheater” were two of the worst things you could call a man.
Ryan Braun is both. And all the money in the world -- or, in his case, a $105-million contract -- won’t buy his way out of that.
Here’s what I wish Braun would have done. I wish he would have been man enough to stand before the reporters and the cameras and say:
“I messed up. My desire for money and fame drove me to cheat, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do. Then I lied about it, which was just as bad. I will never cheat again. I will negotiate a new contract with my team, if I’m lucky enough to be allowed back. To all the kids out there, I’d like to say that you should never, ever do what I did. It’s wrong. It’s bad. The most important things in life are your character and living your life with integrity and honesty. I didn’t do that, and I’m really sorry.”
I suppose it’s not too late. I suppose he might still say something like that.
But unless and until then, I hate Ryan Braun.
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