Ryan Braun revealed the truth about fans yesterday. Not that it was particularly surprising, but a little startling none the less. After serving a 65-game suspension last season for PED use and effectively ending any chance the Milwaukee Brewers had at contending in the National League Central Division, Braun received a standing ovation from the hometowns fans yesterday at opening day in Milwaukee.
This is not to cast judgement, fans are fans. They cheer for their teams and winning is the most important element in their fandom. Brewer fans are not stupid. They know better than anyone they are not going to win this season without a healthy contribution from Braun. Thus, they cheered, loud and long and standing on both two feet.
Welcome back Ryan Braun and thanks for the revelation of those that support him. He apologized and all is forgiven. Not that this is new information, fans have been forgiving their cheaters for some time now. Barry Bonds was roundly supported during his stay in San Francisco and embraced again during a stint as a hitting coach this spring with the Giants. Mark McGwire was welcomed back by Cardinal fans in St. Louis as a hitting coach. Roger Clemens is still a hero in Texas.
This was something new though. Braun and his transgressions were different and more egregious. For those who do not remember Dina Laurenzi Jr. was a sample collector for Major League Baseball, collecting samples of urine and then shipping them off to an independent lab to be tested. He collected a sample from Braun that came back positive just after the 2011 season when Braun was named National League MVP.
Braun appealed his MLB’s 50-game suspension because there had been a delay in the sample arriving to the lab. Laurenzi Jr. collected the sample on a Saturday and kept it in his house, believing he could not ship it til Monday. Braun won the appeal and then attacked Laurenzi Jr. and his motives, never mind that there was no evidence that the sample had been tampered with.
So Ryan Braun walked away, vindicated in his own mind while potentially ruining the life and career of Laurenzi Jr. Fans who wanted to believe in him and his innocence felt vindicated too. Their guy did not cheat. Except he did and in 2013 he was caught again and could not escape the truth any longer.
Given all this it seemed possible that some would finally stand up to a PED user. Bonds may have been a jerk, Clemens may have lied over and over, but Braun threw someone else under the bus. An innocent man. His sin was not just his own. His sin hurt someone else and purposefully so. Surely if anyone was ever going to be rebuked by fans it would be Braun.
He wasn’t though. He was celebrated again and now we move on again from another chapter involving steroids and baseball, but this this one is about the fans and not the player that cheated.
Milwaukee Brewer fans do not get to boo the next time a steroid user rolls in to town from an opposing team. The next time they see McGwire, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, on the field there is nothing to say. No more booing, no more judging, no more hostile chants about the PED user.
Fans can not have it both ways. Booing a cheater from another team yet supporting your own with standing ovations has to strike a chord of hypocrisy with even the most fervent fan. Ryan Braun did not just reveal Brewer fans yesterday. He revealed all fans.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Milwaukee Brewers