Since Brewers LF Ryan Braun accepted a 65 game suspension from Major League Baseball, there has been a parade of commentators – paid and unpaid, in print and via broadcast – who have come forward to tell us exactly what Braun needs to do to regain the good graces of baseball fans. One caller to the Bill Michaels radio show (WSSP, Milwaukee) outlined a very specific course of action he believes Braun needs to pursue, one familiar to those who have undertaken a 12 step program: Specifically detail what he did, apologize to those he’d wronged, ask for forgiveness. Then, the caller said, he would forgive Braun…but not necessarily forget what he’d done.

I have been struck by all of this advice, particularly by the comment from the WSSP caller, because it implies that Braun needs — or even wants — people to forgive him. But I am not sure that premise is valid. First, why would he want forgiveness when those bestowing it aren’t sure they would even be willing to put the whole episode behind them (by “forgetting”)? Really, why would Braun want to humble himself if it will not make a real difference in people’s minds? And even if all Brewers fans would immediately forgive and forget in the wake of a mea culpa, the vast majority of baseball fans – those living outside of Wisconsin – would likely be unsatisfied and boo him lustily for the rest of his career anyway. There really is no dividend for Braun in taking this course, so why bother? People’s minds are made up: All that awaits Braun, even with a full disclosure of his sins and a heartfelt apology, is a lifetime of scorn and labels like “liar,” “cheat.” and, in the vernacular of Jeff Passan of Yahoo!Sports, “cockroach.”

If that is what is ahead for Braun even if he confesses and publically offers an Act of Contrition, he might opt to forgo the whole circus, take the booing that will come his way, and simply find comfort in collecting the $100+ million remaining on his guaranteed contract. He will notch that pile regardless of whether he prostrates himself and begs for our forgiveness. He will get that money even if the emotional strain is so overwhelming that he posts a .650 OPS over the remainder of that deal.

The assumption seems to be that Braun, like many of us, craves the respect, love, and adulation of others. Most of us seek those things because we are not Ryan Braun: we aren’t assured a lifetime of security in the form of money, so we play nice as an alternate means of reward, self-gratification and, in some cases, self-preservation. Fans need to realize, pro athletes aren’t like us. Their worlds, their needs, and their motivations, do not resemble ours.

None of this is to suggest that Braun shouldn’t want the soul-cleansing benefits that come with the humility of confession and apology—there are deep spiritual rewards in taking such a route. But to insist this is a course Braun somehow needs to follow seems to misunderstand how the situation might look from his perspective.

 

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