Ryan Braun Has Forced Me To Grow Up
I’m not angry, I’m disappointed.
As the the dust starts to settle on Major League Baseball’s latest PED related suspension – this time ending the season of Brewers’ Outfielder Ryan Braun – I thought I would share how I feel about it, as a teenage Los Angeles Dodgers fan from the UK.
I consider myself a fan on baseball since 2008, but I haven’t considered myself a baseball “guy” until the last year or so. With the help of MLBTV and an extended break from school before university, I have been watching my LA Dodgers far more than ever before.
The more I watch of baseball, the more I like it and the more I learn. I love the crazy stats, the quirky events that rarely ever happen and the difficulty and strategy involved in just getting a hit. But as my affection for the sport has peaked in recent weeks – with the All Star Game, the rise of Cuban defector Yasiel Puig and the stunning form from the Dodgers, the sport has once again emerged out of a cloud of smoke with another black eye.
Out of all the sports which I have a reasonable knowledge of, the only ones which seem to always have an issue with cheaters are pro cycling and baseball. It’s such a shame that such issues form a dark cloud over such good sports and hurt their reputation. Since I am relatively new to the sport of baseball, this particular chapter in the fight against PEDs has hit me the hardest. And it’s not just because I am a Dodger fan, who believes Matt Kemp rightly owns the MVP title which Braun has to his name, no, it’s more than that.
As a young sports fan entering the final stages of my teenage years, I still find myself placing athletes on a pedestal, idolizing them and using their drive to motivate me most days. However Ryan Braun’s handling of this situation may well mark the end of this mentality which almost every young sports fanatic goes through.
When talking to friends on social media about athletes and how to view them, I found it hard to accept that the people who I adore so much, are constantly entertained by and whose names I proudly wear on my back may not be the best people to look up to. For it mostly comes down to a debate of trust and integrity, and it seems that there are plenty of athletes who don’t care and understand their position in society, Ryan Braun being one of them.
I must admit I feel the pain for the many young Brewers fans, who idolized Ryan Braun, wore his jersey and cheered him on at every opportunity, because they are victims of a liar, who lied so convincingly that even the most respectable of analysts took his side. He got a guy fired and wrongly kicked the Arizona Diamondbacks from the playoffs while “juicing”. His reputation has taken a serious hit now, and I doubt he will ever be viewed in the same light again.
When Braun said to the world just over a year ago “If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally I’d have been the first one to admit it. I truly believe this substance never entered my body.” And then, “I was a victim of a process that completely broke down and failed as it was applied to me in this case. Today’s about making sure this never happens to anyone else who plays this game.” Most Brewers fans saw it as a rallying cry, and who can blame them? It was such a stubborn and powerful speech, that even Aaron Rodgers – who is mostly a quiet athlete – spoke passionately about it, supporting his friend.
When Chris Davis says he is out to prove people wrong about taking PEDs after smacking 35 home runs in just one half of a season, I don’t for one second believe him. Why? Because the MLB record book has become glorified fiction, to the point where nobody can truly say who owns each record. Sammy Sosa, Mark Mcgwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera are just some of the players who have been caught cheating and they are big names. So is it now acceptable, and normal to be skeptic every time someone does something amazing? It shouldn’t be….
You can say you don’t care, but I find that quite cowardly. There are rules in sports for a reason, if everyone is going to cheat then why watch the sport? It’s not only ghastly unfair to those who do no wrong, but it also fails to be a sport, because it’s fake. The appeal of the sport, for me at least, is therefore gone.
So I find myself now, still a big fan of baseball, still a fan of the Dodgers, but not really much of a fan of athletes like I used to be. On a day when I find myself questioning the numbers of the late, great Jackie Robinson, I can honestly say I am disappointed, and I will continue to be until the player’s union and MLB clamp down further and start permanently banning PED users. Until those in power get their act together and make even more changes to their substance abuse policy, the sport will never be totally clean.
But there is one positive to this. I don’t have any respect or sympathy for Ryan Braun, but while he apologizes to the long list people he has lied to, I owe him thanks, because as much as I hate to say it, I have now grown up. I will no longer be quite as obsessed about star athletes, treating them like gods, because it’s the team that matters, and the community that follows them which makes sports special. It’s just too hard to class people who I can’t trust as role models.
So, thanks for being a fraud Ryan, and enjoy watching the rest of the season on the sofa.