It’s probably no worse here than in other countries, but America certainly has a long history of being, shall we say, less than truthful. After essentially stealing their land, our myriad of broken peace treaties with the Native Americans comes to mind. This even could apply to the heartwarming tale we were taught in school about George Washington and the cherry tree.
Apparently, when George was 6 years old he was given a beautiful hatchet. He then proceeded to chop down everything in sight, including his father’s favorite cherry tree. (Why George had to chop down everything seems a bit odd, but evidently that’s just the way he rolled.)
When George’s father discovered what happened, he stormed into the manor and demanded to know who was responsible. (Today, George might have lawyered up or, at a minimum, dialed Child Protective Services.)
But indicative of his fine character, young George confessed on the spot, “I cannot tell a lie, father, I did cut it with my little hatchet.” (Give me a break.) Immediately, the anger died out of his father’s face, and taking the boy in his arms, he said tenderly, “My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth means more to me than a thousand trees!” (Frankly, I’m getting nauseous.)
The point is, the cherry tree and Georgie’s endearing confession, they never happened. Pure PR. Cut to 235 years later, President Richard Nixon tells a spellbound nationwide TV audience, “I’m not a crook.” (You could almost see his nose growing.)
Nixon soon became the only president in history to resign. But instead of going to jail, as did his cronies, he was pardoned by Gerald Ford, the vice president whom he had appointed only a month earlier.
There’s an old joke, “How do you know when a politician is lying? When his lips are moving.” So it is, as a country we’ve endured “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” or “We not only know there are WMDs in Iraq, we know where they’re located.” (Which caused more lives lost? If you don’t believe WMDs was a lie I have some swampland in Florida I’d like to sell you.)
If it used to be politicians lie when their lips move, thanks to Ryan Braun and others, it’s now also applicable to baseball players. As Paul Simon ruefully lamented, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
Braun grew up in Granada Hills and was a local boy who made good. Or so we thought. Ryan Joseph Braun, nicknamed “The Hebrew Hammer,” is a left fielder for the Milwaukee Brewers and, until recently, was considered one of the best active players in Major League Baseball. Now he’s considered just another “cheater.”
In 2011, Braun won the National League’s MVP award, but apparently did so with the help of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs). In December of 2011, Braun tested positive for elevated levels of synthetic testosterone and was hit with a 50 game suspension.
Braun immediately appealed the action saying, “I’d bet my life those drugs aren’t in my system.” Given his golden boy status everybody believed him. Kind of.
Having put on a “vigorous” defense as only multi-millionaires can, in February, 2012 Braun became the first player in MLB history to have his suspension lifted. By a vote of 2-1 the arbitrators had upheld his appeal. (Albeit, on a technicality.)
Instead of quietly returning to baseball, Braun ripped MLB and boasted of his innocence. “This vindicates everything I stand for and value in life.” Online, his good friend, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, backed him up. Apparently doing a Mitt Romney impression, Rodgers tweeted about Braun’s innocence, “I’d put my salary next year on it. #ponyup #exonerated.” Rodgers salary is $39.5 million! (Just be grateful I didn’t reprint Anthony Weiner’s tweets.)
Causing great disappointment to kids and fans all over the country, as part of the Biogenesis scandal, this week Braun admitted that he had used PEDs. Given the evidence against him, he eagerly cut a deal with MLB, accepting a 65 game suspension. Though he’ll likely be forever disgraced in baseball we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him.
Next year Braun will return to the game and play the remaining seven years and $117 million of his $145 million contract. He’s a tad better off than Shyam Das, the longtime arbitrator who headed Braun’s hearing and was subsequently fired by MLB in May, 2012. Or Dino Laurenzi, Jr., the collector of Braun’s urine sample who has two master’s degrees and whom Braun accused of “tampering.” Maybe Braun could spare some of his $117 million so Dino could buy back his reputation?
There’s a cynical expression circulating these days, “If you’re not cheating you’re not really trying.” I’ll bet Joe DiMaggio would have disagreed.
Jack can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.