Let me begin by stating that I am a big Ryan Braun fan. I love the way he plays the game… his approach to the game… his skills… his demeanor on the field.
I tell you this so you’ll know my bias as it relates to the recent overturning of his suspension. As a Braun fan and Brewers supporter, I am glad for the ruling. The thought of 50 games without Braun in the line-up was not a scenario I wanted to see the first two months of the 2012 season for the Brew Crew.
As writers, experts and commentators offer their opinions on the ruling in the Braun case, I want to focus on one word that Braun talked about after he heard the verdict overturning his suspension: REPUTATION.
Specifically, Braun said, that the ruling was “the first step in restoring my good name and reputation.”
The last thing Ryan Braun needs is my advice or opinion. But let me say: Ryan Braun will never get his reputation back. From the first report that Braun had tested positive, his reputation was damaged. I’m sure Braun would disagree with me, but my contention is that the recent ruling did little to make a clear case that he was innocent. Sure, his appeal was successful. He will not have to serve a 50-game suspension. For Braun, the Brewers and their fans, that is a victory. But the ruling did not exonerate Braun. He was not found innocent. For many, Braun got off on a technicality. They called it “improper protocol.” And believe me, sports talk radio, TV commentators and fans alike are choosing sides in the Ryan Braun case. To quote some, “Braun is still dirty, no matter what the ruling.”
But back to reputation. Here’s why I think Braun will never regain his reputation. Former Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianpolis Colts coach Tony Dungy in his book, “Uncommon” wrote that: “Others determine your reputation, but only you determine your integrity.” Reputation is the public’s perception of your integrity. Maybe we’re splitting hairs here, but I think Braun should be less concerned about reputation and more concerned about his integrity or his character, both traits that he controls. He cannot control his reputation. That’s what we, the general public do. In my mind, Ryan Braun’s reputation is damaged beyond repair. And he should stop worrying about it.
If Braun is a man of integrity and character, as I believe he is, then he should focus his attention on those. He is now a marked man. He will be scrutinized the remainder of his career. Just wait till that first game that he goes 0-for-4 with three strikeouts at Wrigley Field. “See, I told you he was juicing,” will be shouted from the rooftops across the street. There will be a cloud of doubt about him until he hangs up his jersey. But he can fight those demons with unwavering integrity and character. He has to remain clean; no more doubts can creep into his career. If he stays clean, puts up solid numbers the rest of his career and continues to play at the high level that he has these past five seasons, then he will be able to walk away with hopefully his integrity and character intact. But reputation? As I said before, reputation is our label to put on him. And some have already determined that Braun’s reputation has been compromised.
We are a society that loves our answers in black and white. Got a problem? We want a solution that mirrors the latest episode of “CSI.” We’ll get back to you with the solution in 60 minutes, save for 13 minutes of commercials. That’s what we were hoping for in the Ryan Braun situation. Sure, Braun won’t serve the suspension because of the ruling, but the ruling still casts doubts on the process and on Ryan Braun. As Ken Rosenthal, baseball writer for Fox Sports wrote, “… even if Braun is not innocent, it doesn’t mean he’s guilty.” Detractors of Braun’s are taking a similar approach by saying, “Even if he won his appeal, that doesn’t mean he’s clean.” I think you get the picture.
Again, it takes us back to Braun and his desire to restore his reputation. Forget about the reputation part, is my advice. Focus the remainder of your career on your integrity and character is my two cents of wisdom to Braun. In another quote from Dungy’s book, the former NFL coach states, “Integrity does not come in degrees – low, medium, high. You either have integrity or you don’t.” I believe Braun is an athlete of integrity. I believed that up until the announcement of his drug test went public. I’ll admit, I had my doubts during the time waiting for the appeal ruling. Now that he has had his due process and won his appeal, my faith in his integrity has been restored. I don’t know all the facts, and probably never will. But I choose to line-up behind Ryan Braun.
So Ryan, here’s my take on your nightmare: Forget about trying to restore your reputation. Others determine that for you and some have already cast you in the category of athletes who got lucky, who got a break, who got off on a technicality. You won’t change their opinion of you. They will choose to use “bad” as the word just prior to reputation. They’ve already made up their mind. Don’t waste your time trying to restore something you have no control over. Worry about what you do control: Your character, your integrity and your performance on the field. That, my friend, is well worth your time and effort.