I’ll be the first to admit: I’m a huge fan of Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers have always been my favorite baseball team. But even if I were not, the whole process that has played out over the past few months would disgust me. The biggest issue is his perceived guilt before he even had a chance to tell his side of the story. I blame ESPN for this and whoever leaked that he had failed his drug test. There is a reason these things should—and are legally bound to be—confidential. The only way the public should have found out about any of this was after the appeals process was finished. And at that point, no one would have ever known that Braun failed his test; his presumption of innocence would have been intact. In this Internet-traffic driven world of 24-7 news—no matter its validity—it is no wonder this information came out. But that does not make it right.
My biggest beef, however, is with those who are fixated on Ryan Braun’s sky-high (ratios never before seen!) testosterone level. It baffles me how people can so cling to the science of the testing—how infallible it apparently is—when the rest of the immense evidence supports Ryan Braun’s innocence. Before this one, he had passed all 25 of his drug tests—every single one since he entered professional baseball—and when he found out he had failed the 26th test, he immediately asked to be retested and that exam came back clean. In the disputed test, the levels of testosterone found in his system were so unprecedentedly high that it (presumably) would have changed his body in some way or at least elevated his performance.
But none of this happened. His production has always been the model of consistency, getting better each year as he enters his prime and continues to master the intricacies and art of hitting. (For a batter, it’s widely assumed 27 is the beginning age of an athlete’s prime. Braun was born on November 17, 1983; he turned 28 after the season ended.) Though it’s not quite a perfect explication of Occam’s Razor, if I were told that a player—no matter who he was—passed his first 25 drug tests, had such a stratospheric testosterone level that it was higher than anyone had ever seen, and—most importantly—neither the player’s body nor his numbers changed in the slightest, I’d undoubtedly believe that it was an errant test. After all, it is the simplest and most logical explanation.
Finally, for those of you who are aghast that he didn’t pro-offer alleged tampering or attack the science of his test in his defense, let me ask you this: if your life, livelihood, and reputation were on the line, would you not focus your legal arguments on the most salient issue—in this case, the botched chain-of-custody—that is most likely to exonerate you? Or do you try to prove everything is false and, by doing so, risk that you will be found guilty of something you never did? Ryan Braun did what he had to do to prove he was clean. He respected the expectation of confidentiality (which others did not) while repeatedly being vilified by the press. Throughout the entire process, he always maintained his innocence. And when he was finally vindicated—and now able to speak freely—he gave an impassioned and detailed defense on how he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs and how his body and performance have never deviated from his historical statistical baseline. It’s a compelling case. And I whole-heartedly believe him.
I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong. More on that in a bit. Overall, I did well with my pre-Academy Awards nomination predicted winners. I correctly foresaw Oscars for Foreign Language Film (Iran’s A Separation), Original Score (The Artist), and Original Screenplay (Midnight in Paris). And for the more glamorous awards, I nailed the best the Supporting Actress and Actor categories. But I did miss on Actress (I had Viola Davis over Meryl Streep), Actor (George Clooney over Jean Dujardin), Director (Martin Scorsese over Michel Hazanavicius), and Picture (The Descendants over The Artist).
So why am I not the least bit upset? Simple: unlike last year, when the cookie-cutter Oscar bait The King’s Speech triumphed over The Social Network—a truly revolutionary film detailing in exquisite prose how we live life now—this year’s Academy Awards got it right, even if I stubbornly refused to change my initial prediction to the overwhelming favorite. My elation comes from the simple fact that for the first time since The Departed, the Academy rewarded the best film of the year with the coveted Best Picture Oscar. So hurrah for The Artist: a beautiful, lush, and brilliant creation. Formidable!
Overheard . . .
On matrimonial matters (and religion):
“Didn’t he propose to you and you propose to him?”
“I don’t think Jesus gives out wedding rings.”
“If there are any Jews here speak up now.”
On other everyday fare:
“Yeah, I knew the guy that killed himself.”
“I only miss out on everything once.”
“No expectations. Let’s just say we work well together in a hotel room.”