Every single time Ryan Braun plays in St. Louis, he’s met with boos. Loud ones. Energetic ones with a viciousness powered by raw dislike bordering on hatred. You can practically smell the loathing through the KMOX audio feed. The former NL #MVPee gets similar treatment in other stadiums as well, but the Best Fans in Baseball seem to have a special place in their…..*hearts for Braun.
Like most PED users, he’s relatively easy to vilify, because most of us enjoy a sense of moral superiority when we can build our pulpits from low hanging fruit. He cheated, and he lied about cheating, and he probably cheated while lying about cheating. He did just fine before taking performance enhancing drugs, and he did what he did to stay in the lineup. He did it for the fans who paid to see him play. By some accounts, he’s really a swell guy, and his hometown fans supported him through a period of allegations. Honestly, many were in denial even after the truth finally surfaced.
But enough about Mark McGwire…
(See, this is kind of funny, because I intentionally led you to believe this was just about Ryan Braun.)
Through the correct set of rose-colored glasses, McGwire seems like the anti-Braun with the only commonality being PED use. Braun dragged test sample collector Dino Laurenzi Jr’s name through the mud with his, whereas McGwire merely tainted his own name. Plus one for McGwire, right?
While the chain-of-custody technicality that allowed Braun to skate on his original positive test for synthetic testosterone only brought into question Laurenzi’s competence, it was Braun’s labeling of Laurenzi as anti-Semitic that raised character questions. McGwire, as best I can recall, was a lot quieter in his handling of accusations, so good for him. If you are going to use PED’s, then at least go about it the right way, kids. If you are keeping score at home, that’s another point for McGwire’s proper use of steroids and media manipulation.
Of course, Braun was eventually suspended in 2013 for his connection to Biogenesis and its “products”. His subsequent apology truly seemed as heartfelt and sincere as anything a player’s attorney can possibly write. He certainly appeared remorseful. Like maybe 15% remorse or whatever fraction of his contract he lost to his penalty. At least McGwire showed more like 18% remorse when he finally got around to really addressing his PED use. Granted, that came over a decade after he apparently saved baseball, so kudos to him for avoiding any statute of public judgment limitations or whatever. Point, McGwire.
Not satisfied with his massive haul partially thanks to PED use, Braun was selfish enough to go out and sign a massive 5 year / $105MM extension. McGwire had the good sense to slide off into retirement where he maintained a relatively low profile. That’s game, set, and match for Big Mac, isn’t it? Any self-respecting fan set on pontificating about crusades to crucify PED users has to see this.
Because moralizing while ignoring your own hypocrisy can be fun, or at the very least it gives you comfort as you ride your sled of righteousness down the slippery slope of judgment.
Look, I’m not really saying that McGwire is a better person than Braun, and I’m not saying that Braun is better than McGwire in any tangible way. I’m not even saying that they are the same and should be given the same treatment. They are very different as the circumstances of their PED use were different. I just think it’s healthy to at least acknowledge that choosing to vilify one while defending the other creates at least the perception of a double standard.
This leads me to my own internal conflict. While I wholeheartedly enjoy saying entirely mean things about Braun, I can’t possibly reconcile this with a selective memory approach to McGwire’s legacy. Given a desire to avoid moral dilemmas as much as possible, I’m left with the conclusion that I can’t continue to treat McGwire with the same deference I have for the other Cardinal legends. He just doesn’t belong, and for me, he just doesn’t belong in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
Since he’ll be enshrined there for all of eternity anyway, I’m resigned to a sense of acceptance regarding the inevitable accusations of hypocrisy which assuredly shall be lobbed this way from all directions. Given the way I embraced the McGwire-Sosa bromance even after both passed beyond the point of credulity, I deserve a healthy dose of “we told you so”.
Perhaps that’s why I’m looking for catharsis (or maybe forgiveness) in writing this. Just trying to clear my conscience to make way for more utter nonsense. Then again, maybe it’s time to lighten up on Braun and drop the juvenile booing thing. After all, it’s possible that a show of ambivalence will send a more profound message than booing does.
DISCLAIMER: I realize the title is much more clever than the post itself. It’s not my fault you get your hopes up. This is me we’re talking about. Try lowering your expectations next time. Sheesh.