Ryan Braun entered his personal jail on Monday evening but no bars clanged shut, at least none that you could see or hear. He might move about freely. His sentence is the remainder of this baseball season _ that’s 65 games _ but of course his sentence is longer. It is endless. He will return next year to the sport he says he loves, the sport he cheated, but everything will have changed.
Braun’s permanent house arrest has begun.
These are the consequences of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
The consequences seem all good _ the black magic makes you better _ until the moment your scam no longer is a secret. Then the consequences are bad. You are stained with indelible ink. You never get your good name back.
Braun became the newest face of baseball’s continuing Steroids Era on Monday, a national story but a Miami story first. He’s a former University of Miami Hurricane. He was nabbed through his dealings with the now-closed Biogenesis "clinic" that operated right across from campus in Coral Gables, Fla., and that has ensnared close to two dozen other big-leaguers, including Alex Rodriguez.
Braun said two things Monday that sounded terribly off key and betrayed a tone deaf self-awareness.
"I realize now that I have made some mistakes," he said.
Great. Nice admission, after the fact. Where was the conscience that might have led him to realize those mistakes as he was making them? Such as when he tested positive for a PED in late 2011 but slipped out on a technicality related to the handling of his urine sample. Such as when he was dealing in the deep shade of that Biogenesis "clinic."
Admitting wrong when you have no other choice earns no medal. Braun acknowledging now that he has made mistakes is awfully little, awfully late.
The second odd reaction by him was this:
"I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all."
Can he be that naive to believe it?
Has he not seen what a PED stain has done to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa and so many others?
Legacies are rewritten in an instant. Hall of Fame careers disappear as fast.
Before Monday Braun seemed headed to Cooperstown. At the very least he was positioned to become a modern Milwaukee Brewers icon in league with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Someone beloved.
Braun got greedy. He had great natural talent, but it wasn’t enough for him.
Baseball’s PED crowd is disproportionately Latin American because, it is said, steroids are seen as the available, fast bridge from poverty to the American dream. Desperation drives the use. So goes the explanation/excuse.
Plenty of other culprits fit the Bonds/Clemens/A-Rod category of aging, fading stars looking for an elixir to buy them a few more years. More time to be who they are before they become the has-been they have always feared seeing in the mirror. There is desperation there, too. So goes the explanation/excuse.
Braun is worse than what we are used to.
He was not desperate to escape some far-flung barrio. He was not fighting a calendar or health issues. At 29, he was in his prime. If there was desperation in his case, well, it just looks like greed to me. It feels like a less-understandable cheating.
If you are going to rob, at least do it to feed your family. Because utter desperation drove you. Braun had ample talent; he had his youth. It wasn’t enough.
Braun could have been the needed face of baseball surviving its Steroids Era and moving on _ an example of doing things right.
Instead he’s just dirty, like anybody else who is.
I happen to have spent the past 10 days or so on vacation on an Alaskan cruise, where the getaway included the magnificent vista of massive (though receding) glaciers and the out-of-my-zone fun of halibut fishing.
On Monday, I returned to reality.
Remember when sports was the escape?
Somehow sports became the reality. The arrests. The failed drug tests. The seemingly endless parade of athletes letting us down.
"I’m glad to have this matter behind me once and for all," the latest disappointment actually said Monday.
It is not behind him, of course, and won’t ever be.