What Aaron should say to Ryan

Now that Ryan Braun has finally fessed up about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, now that he has accepted his punishment (if a bit ham-handedly), and now that he has a mountain of work to do in rehabilitating his image, perhaps his pally Aaron Rodgers can offer him some advice about staying at the foot of the cross.

If anyone can help Braun rehab, especially since Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said he would remain with the team, it’s the esteemed quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, who stuck his neck out about a mile (as did this blogger) in defense of Braun, even offering to bet a year’s salary that his friend was innocent. Considering that Rodgers will make about $39.5 million in this, the first year of his new contract, that was a bold, if halfhearted, wager.

Despite that, Rodgers’ image was not tarnished one bit, especially since his only “crime” was sticking up for a friend, so he’s in a better position than most to admit his fellow Californian into celebrity rehab.

When Braun broke the news to Rodgers, it had to be a painful conversation for both. I hope it went something like this:

Braun: “Hi, Aaron. I guess you heard the news.”

Rodgers: “Yes, I certainly did. I have to say, I’m disappointed in you and for you.”

Braun: “Sorry, man. I put you in a tough spot.”

Rodgers: “You put yourself in an even tougher spot. The question now is: Where do we go from here?”

Braun: “By ‘we,’ I assume you mean that you’re still my friend, not that I deserve to be.”

Rodgers: “You’re about to lose a lot of friends, but if you commit to becoming a better man, you won’t lose me.”

Braun: “I appreciate that, but how on earth do I do that? I expected a harsh judgment from people nationally, but I didn’t expect this many Wisconsin people to break bad on me. No matter how hard I try to make amends, I’ll always have this cloud hanging over me.”

Rodgers: “You have nobody to blame but yourself, but you can go a long way to repair the damage if you’re truly sorry for what you’ve done. That initial statement you made at the announcement of your suspension was pretty lame. You weren’t nearly contrite enough.”

Braun: “I laid an egg, huh?”

Rodgers: “You laid a beach ball, man, but here is how you can stop the bleeding. Release a statement encouraging the baseball writers to strip you of your 2011 National League MVP award and award it instead to Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. Admit that, in retrospect, he’s much more deserving than you, and apologize for what you’ve done to tarnish the honor.”

Braun: “You want me to do what?”

Rodgers: “Ryan, you don’t have any choice. People already view you as arrogant and as someone who believes he’s above the rules. Mr. Attanasio’s statement helped to put things in better perspective and began the repair work, but you’ve got to do some of the fixing yourself.”

Braun: “All right, but will that be enough to put it behind me?”

Rodgers: “Oh boy, I can see you’re still not in full comprehension mode. You’ve got a massive rebuilding job to do, buddy boy. After your MVP announcement, you need to do something else.”

Braun: “Like what?”

Rodgers: “Remember Dino Laurenzi, the guy who collected your urine sample? The guy who allegedly mishandled it?”

Braun: “Allegedly?”

Rodgers: “Yes, allegedly. As it turns out, his keeping the sample in a refrigerator over the weekend did not really taint the sample after all. Remember, your attorney suggested that he tampered with it, even though it remained sealed and there was no evidence of tampering. You should publicly apologize to him. The last thing you want is to be seen as someone who runs over an average Joe.”

Braun: “But he didn’t follow the exact protocol.”

Rodgers: “Neither did you, and you’re not in a position to be standing in judgment of anyone else right now. You need to start making amends to a lot of people, not just Brewer Nation and baseball fans in general.”



Braun: “Fine, but how much humble pie do I have to swallow?”

Rodgers: “In case it hasn’t dawned on you, and apparently it hasn’t, humble pie is going to be a staple of your diet for the foreseeable future. This isn’t going to be behind you once your suspension is served. It isn’t going to be behind you when you arrive for spring training next year. It isn’t going to be behind you until you’ve demonstrated enough contrition and proved, over the next few years, that you didn’t need PEDs to be a Major League baseball star. Had you confessed right away, it might be different, but you put a lot of people through the wringer, and now you have a big rebuilding job on your hands.”

Braun: “I know that, but …”

Rodgers: “No buts about it. Remember, there is such a thing as forgiveness and redemption. Think about it, man. We’ve got a creepy politician tweeting his junk all over, and until recently, it looked like he might become mayor of New York. The public is very forgiving, but you have to be willing to meet them halfway. That means taking your lumps, understanding how your actions have hurt other people, and waking up and flying right. You’re never going to completely remove the taint, and no matter what you accomplish, you can probably kiss the Baseball Hall of Fame goodbye, but you can be redeemed to some extent.”

Braun: “But not completely.”

Rodgers: “No. You put yourself in jail, but you can still be paroled. Not pardoned, but paroled.”

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