July 23, 2013
Ryan Braun: The bad Jewish boy of Major League Baseball
Not even his dapper looks or lingerie-model girlfriend can help him out of this one.
Ryan Braun can’t even help himself.
Now that Major League Baseball has officially suspended Braun for the rest of the season for his alleged involvement in a Miami-based doping scandal, the former MLB MVP barely knows what to say.
“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun reportedly said in a statement. “I realize now that I have made some mistakes.”
Except that the last time he got into trouble, in 2011, when it was discovered that Braun had elevated levels of testosterone in his body, instead of admitting those “mistakes,” he blamed Dino Laurenzi Jr., the low-level league employee who collected his urine sample.
"There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector... that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened," he said, armed and eager to smear. “We spoke to biochemists and scientists,” he continued, “and asked them how difficult it would be for someone to taint the sample. [And] they said, if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy.”
It's harder to tell the truth.
Back then, Braun managed to worm his way out of punishment citing a technicality. But further investigation has since compelled the league to reverse their acquittal. And the public is none too happy with the man formerly known as the “Hebrew Hammer.”
“Ryan Braun doped, lied and care only for himself,” blasted Yahoo sports columnist Jeff Passan. “How do you spell Chutzpah?” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Ami Eden wondered. Even worse, Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi declared Braun “one of the most cravenly selfish figures in American professional sports.”
The withering take-downs are especially ironic in the aftermath of a recent Tablet article that wondered why Braun hasn’t become the Jewish darling of modern baseball. “Braun has not become an icon for Jewish baseball fans in the same way as past stars” like Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax and Shawn Green, Eric Freeman wrote. Freeman added that although Braun’s Jewishness “has never been a major topic of discussion” the way it was for his predecessors, “it could be that Braun has not achieved this lofty status among Jews because he’s a controversial figure.”
Indeed, Jewish tradition is rather big on personal responsibility. As summer gives way to the month of Elul, which marks the weeks before the Jewish high holy days, teshuvah -- repentance -- becomes imperative. This is a time to account for one’s actions, to admit of one’s sins, not elide them.
But in Braun’s defense, he may be as ignorant of this as he seems to be of his penchant for PED’s (performance enhancing drugs). As Freeman pointed out in Tablet, “the son of an Israeli-born father (himself the son of a Holocaust survivor) and Catholic mother, the Los Angeles native did not attend synagogue, did not have a bar mitzvah, and did not celebrate any Jewish holidays.”
Because Jews have seen the worst in humanity and have had to pull themselves up by the bootstraps through the hinterland of history, they have little tolerance for those who muck up an easy ride. Jews see Braun’s leading man looks, prodigious talent and opulent opportunity and they see someone who should be thanking his lucky psalms for all those blessings. Instead, they get an ungracious cheater.
Luckily for Braun, the Jews are a very forgiving people. The vicissitudes of history have cemented a long-view philosophy that prizes the possibility for redemption. Every passing day is another chance to turn things around.