Ryan Braun's frosty apology
By my count, Ryan Braun used the phrase "move forward" or a variation thereof no less than eight times during his "impromptu" 15 degree news conference at Miller Park Wednesday.
Coming in a close second were the terms "I'm not going to go into further details/go into specifics". They clocked in at six.
What Braun said will be parsed, critiqued, analyzed, washed and rinsed repeatedly, or at least until his next brush with a camera or a mike. Wednesday's Hunger Task Force occasion was the latest in what I think we can admit is a carefully crafted effort to bring the Brewers star back from the public relations abyss.
How you feel about Braun's session may depend on how you ingested it. Hearing or seeing it live in the moment, one couldn't help but to be taken by Braun's unflinching responses to the flurry of 35-plus questions flung his way in the November chill. Starting out with "Why did you lie?" the gathered assembly was hard on Braun, and his answers came without pause. Hearing it live, it seemed like a brisk, honest exchange and Braun's answers came off as having a bit more meat than they do upon further review. Again, there was a lot of talk about "moving forward" and plenty of refusal to deal with "specifics". Reading the transcript, you see how ready Braun was for the tough stuff, but how reluctant he is to deal with the nuts and bolts of what he deems "a huge mistake."
And we've all made those, haven't we?
Many of us can't relate to Braun--handsome, smooth, blessed by the baseball gods and wealthy beyond all human understanding. We don't know what it feels like to play left field at Miller Park, to hit a game winning home run, to be adored by thousands. We've never had to cope with that brand of adulation, those kind of expectations, his kind of pressure. All of us, though, know what it's like to have made a bad choice, a poor decision, a failure to live up to billing. We've all had to say "I'm sorry" and had to explain ourselves to a disappointed friend or loved one. It hurts like nothing else, but it's a very human experience that humbles us while flattening out the giant cosmic playing field we all live our lives out on.
Some are dismissing Wednesday's event as rehearsed--trust me, it wasn't as organic as some may think. A gaggle of reporters just didn't happen to show up to watch Braun and his bride-in-waiting to a community solid. He knew what was coming, and the reporters had time to sharpen their questions. It's probably why Braun's answers came as unflinchingly as they did, using the themes mentioned above, the ones about "moving forward" and "specifics". And, there was that glimmer of "news", the disclosure about Braun and his fiance breaking bread with the sample collector the outfielder so badly besmirched in the past.
Having given out more than my share of apologies over the course of 56 years on this rock, you get a feel for what a good one should contain. Spontaneous is always good, and sincere always works best. Genuine contrition is a badly needed ingredient, too. All you can do is tap a vein, let the "sorry" spill out and hope it's well-received.
Did Braun do that Wednesday? Some fans say yes. Others aren't sure. Each will decide on his or her own. Of the questions he fielded, there are scads more that need to be asked: was this the only time you cheated? How many times did you do this in the past? Do you dope in the minors? College?
Braun picked his spot, one that came on Thanksgiving Eve and the day before a crucial Packers/Lions clash that will dominate the sports talk landscape from Thursday's final gun until the next time Green Bay takes the field for an Atlanta game that will either be the next step in a playoff push or the first of what's left of a meaningless string.
Braun's words won't have much hang time under those circumstances. How many even heard them is in question, as more than a few of us checked out for the holiday weekend by the time he spoke Wednesday morning. He can no longer be accused of not facing the local media. We can question his sincerity and openness, but he's now made the move that so many were demanding.
Will he ever achieve ultimate forgiveness? Time tells, as will performance. Words may do it for some, but fans have short memories and an appetite for numbers. A 40 home run season accompanied by a .330 batting average will make many a seam head forget a lot of the ugliness we've seen the past year or so. The rehabilitation of Ryan Braun won't be completed in front of a bank of mikes and a gaggle of cameras. It'll come in a series of at-bats during the 2014 season as Braun tries proving he's the baseball player we always thought he was, the guy worthy of the $113 million he'll knock down through 2020.
Those, my friends, are "specifics". That, fellow fans, is "looking forward."