For baseball enthusiasts, the suspension of Ryan Braun is not recent news since the press is having a field day with it. If one were to aggregate the coverage (both scornful and sympathetic) of the latest PED saga, there are plenty of real world lessons to be grasped from this debacle. Lessons that are Machiavellian truths indicative of our times.
1) The truth may not be cunning but it is no coward like the lie (which is why it will set you free)
Fans and thought leaders have had various takes on the Milwaukee Brewers’ franchise player. While there are no two opinions on his guilt, reactions have been very encompassing in terms of the types of pieces churned out by the media. Some stories contained the most unadulterated contempt while other ones were probably ghost written by Braun’s publicists. Commentary of the latter category went so far as to suggest that fans love watching hitters belt home runs courtesy of the juice.
2) Dear future sports agents, lawyers and publicists are your best friends
In the event that an agent’s client gets implicated in a steroid scandal, having a sharp high-priced litigation team along with a high-powered sports media relations firm at his/her disposal is imperative. Guilty or innocent, lawyers and publicists will help clients navigate their way out of the woods unscathed (for a year at least until another scandal from which they cannot escape emerges).
3) “A lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” – Joseph Goebbels
Mr. Braun’s rousing press conference after his exoneration (see video underneath) may have restored some faith in both sympathizers and skeptics. Yet there were some people such as myself who did not have any judgment as to whether he was guilty or innocent.
However, after hearing the line ‘today is about everybody who has been wrongly accused,’ I became a skeptic right away. What were his crisis communications flacks trying to frame him as through this PRised speech? Baseball’s version of Nelson Mandela subjected to the oppressive apartheid scheme that is the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program? Perpetual reinforcement of that sentiment definitely went a long way in further positioning him as the victim of circumstances beyond his control. The league shortly fired Shyam Das, the arbitrator whose tie-breaking vote acquitted Braun. News of his sacking is all a smart person would need to confirm the left fielder’s guilt.
4) Make full use of the friends who trust you
The Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers bet his salary via twitter that his homeboy Ryan was innocent. MLB Columnist Mike Bauman even vouched for him during the 2012 MVP voting process. Little did they know that they were being taken for a ride. Maybe $15,000 of Rodger’s salary can help reimburse the guy who feels naïve after spending an arm and a leg on Ryan Braun memorabilia. Zack Greinke had quite the words for his betrayal and Rodgers was not particularly happy either.
Other consequences (besides losing some pocket change $3.5 million dollars, the joy of taking the field with your teammates, and goodwill) have begun to take their toll on the Hebrew Hammer. For instance, prominent convenience store chain Kwik Trip will willingly no longer receive Ryan Braun’s eloquent testimonials. More so with the Brewers’ playoff prospects looking bleak, the absence of Braun’s bat would not mean much in the grander scheme of the 2013 season. Instead of losing close to $6 million and being banned for more than 50 games, it was wise to go for the mere slap on the wrist.
5) The brighter the picture, the darker the negative
What does this say about the José Bautistas of the game? While the Toronto right fielder was being riddled with tests and PED accusations, where were the MLB Players Association and Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program test administrators when Braun was enhancing his performance? They were busy testing Bautista 19 times between 2009 and 2012.
All because after spending years as a journeyman utility player, at age 29 the Blue Jays right fielder suddenly emerged from obscurity to hit 54 home runs. That sort of treatment from the Player’s Association and Testing program only motivated Bautista to silence his critics.
Of course Milwaukee’s overnight sensation who has been hitting above .300 since his rookie year seemed squeaky clean to everyone. On the other hand everybody was looking for some tainted explanation for why the late bloomer suddenly found success after struggling for six years in the bigs?
6) “Using an unfair technique in a card game is cheating, but applying Vaseline to your fingers to give a curveball more snap is called competing”
Obviously Mr. Braun’s PR team will do some damage control by reaching out to thought leaders who endorse cheating. These are thought leaders of the “why should us fans worry about the 2011 MVP’s falsehoods when prominent world leaders lie everyday?” mindset. While that outlook true, there is no reason why this should not be of concern to fans that flock to Miller Park and help pay Braun’s salary.
To even romanticize Braun as a archetypal villain as per Sportsnet analyst’s Dirk Hayhurst musings below is laughable.
“It takes an amazing amount of strength and narcissism or whatever commitment really to boldface lie to the degree he did to keep it up that long. A lesser man would have been like my cousin told me to do it…. I think there is apart of me that respects what Ryan Braun did.” (see the complete video below)
There is nothing respectable about what Braun did. While one can admire the brilliance through which the lies were cemented, it is preposterous to associate respectability with the circus that lead to his exoneration last year.
7) Saviors sometimes come in the form of indirect subtleties
Another topic of contention is whether Dino Laurenzi Jr. did his job in handling the urine sample that tested positive for PEDs. Some believe he is owed an apology from Braun because Laurenzi was slandered in last year’s fiasco. Others like Bill Parker over-analyzed the legal proceedings to claim that Braun did not directly attack the handler. Hence Laurenzi Jr. should not expect the words “I am sorry” from the Califronia native. Parker explains why in his nit-picky ramblings:
Moreover, Braun didn’t attack Laurenzi personally. He said:
‘There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked, that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.’
Sure, “things we learned about the collector” could insinuate something unsavory. It could also mean, translated from lawyer-speak into baseball-player-speak, that they learned that the collector may not have handled the sample in strict accordance with the procedures.
The boldfaced rationalization above wastes time on indirect subtleties which are used to diplomatically slander the collector. Sometimes those numerous subtleties give way to countless means of spinning words to underhanded agendas.
In this case, Bill Parker exploited that politically correct verbiage to imply that Braun’s camp did not ‘directly’ defame the sample collector. All this so that Braun will not have to give an apology to the man who deserves it the most.
With all that being said, there is still hope for the Hebrew Hammer’s reputation. In a Ted Reed authored piece for The Street, crisis management and PR veteran Bruce Hicks opines that Braun needs to acknowledge the specifics of his wrongdoings rather than just say ‘sorry I messed up…now lets move on.’ And he needs to do it soon before the ship of amnesty sails away.
I doubt that will happen anytime soon because due to the agreement between MLB and the player’s association, the details of Braun’s revelation will not be made public. He has quite the long road back to forgiveness.
Nonetheless, if Andy Petitte can still be revered despite his mishaps, Ryan Braun is not any less deserving of such reverence. All he has to do is genuinely heed Bruce Hick’s wise words and continue producing (without extra PED help of course).