Webster's Dictionary defines the word "brawn" as "full of strong muscles and muscular strength." Somewhat ironic for Major League Baseball superstar-turned-pariah, Ryan Braun, who was suspended for the season on Monday for taking performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps the British definition -- "flesh of a boar"-- is more appropriate since Ryan Braun reminds us that his skin, like every mammal, is filled with imperfections.
The web is abuzz with commentary about his character flaws, which are stark. One of the most common reactions is "how am I going to tell my son or daughter?" I can tell you how because I have been doing it for the last 11 years, both publicly and, more importantly, privately, when I remind my son and daughter daily about my transgressions. I committed a crime to service my lifelong pathological gambling addiction. The residual impact of such a crime may be felt for the rest of my life. However, painfully reminding my children daily what I did has made them -- and I believe me -- better and more self-aware.
Society, loves epic failure and comeback stories, because it reminds us that we are human. If Ryan Braun can face-plant, then you can too. But what does Ryan Braun do from here, other than wait to come back and play baseball? No matter how many home runs Braun hits in his career, his athletic legacy is irreparably tarnished. Instead, to find the silver lining, Brauny must genuinely and intellectually break-down why he made the choice to use PED's and then subsequently covered it up while accusing others of lying. If he engages in genuine introspection, then he can use his megastar platform to teach parents and children an important lesson.
Braun is at fault, and we are free to pass judgment, but those around him, including the MLB apparatus, are not blameless either. MLB and its players for years tolerated a dirty game -- perhaps even implicitly encouraged it. And MLB's comment yesterday "commend[ing]" Braun for coming forward was hardly a model for parents and children around the country. Braun didn't come forward. His hand was forced and baseball would have been better served making that clear to the millions of children who look up to players like him.
Moreover, Braun's statement was the kind that reeks of a calculating publicist's penmanship. It lacked genuine contrition and acceptance of responsibility. Reese Witherspoon, on the other hand, is an example of someone who came clean quickly and will not be defined by her recent arrest for disorderly conduct. She quickly acknowledged her poor choice and diffused the situation. And now her adorable looks and southern charm are what comes to mind when you hear her name, not what she said in her drunken stupor.
For those of us who are fans of Ryan Braun, we hope that this will not define him either. But if he is not honest with the world about what he did and why, and, most importantly, honest with himself, then his legacy is already set.
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