Mad-Dog Sports Fans
One of the first things Drew, a former player, said when he was introduced was that he wanted the Bucks players to know he really cared about them.
“We’re going to become buddies,” Drew said. “It will be more than just a coach and player relationship.”
Angry sports fans everywhere were appalled. In a perfect world, fans might prefer positive reinforcement in their own jobs, instead of having to work for overbearing jerks who criticize everything they do.
But they definitely want today’s multimillion-dollar professional athletes to be put in their places good and hard by tough-guy coaches and managers who call them out publicly, bench them when they fail and send them packing if they dare to suffer an actual slump.
Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, whose teams have finished first and third in the division, is openly a players’ manager. He has his players’ backs. So, naturally, a lot of people are calling for his head.
There was a time when sports coverage could legitimately be criticized for fraudulently creating shining, fictional heroes out of some pretty reprehensible characters.
Now there is a whole sports media industry devoted to throwing red meat to angry fans in the stands. Sports talk radio, like right-wing talk radio, is a blunt instrument.
The more money players make, the quicker fans can turn against them.
But we pour those billions into sports. We buy expensive tickets, watch and listen to broadcasts attracting enormous advertising dollars and even spend hundreds of millions of our own tax dollars to build shiny, new sports palaces that can charge us even more money.
And much of the controversy is simply contrived.
Ryan Braun’s Not a Villain
Last week, another media frenzy broke out with reporters and television cameras descending on Miller Park because of a sudden revival of the story of Ryan Braun’s alleged performance-enhancing drug use.
To any journalist, the most remarkable thing about the story was that absolutely nothing had really happened. But that didn’t prevent a gusher of quite specific details being reported about what might, maybe, could possibly happen to Braun and 19 other publicly named players if something ever really did happen. Or not.
One actual fact was reported on an ESPN website. Tony Bosch, the operator of a Miami anti-aging clinic, cut a legal deal with Major League Baseball to talk to investigators looking into the possibility of baseball players acquiring performance-enhancing drugs.
Nobody had any idea what Bosch was going to say. But ESPN leaped light years ahead to say 20 players, including Braun, could be suspended not just for 50 games—the contractual penalty—but 100 games for lying about it.
You got the feeling Braun could be led off the field during the game in handcuffs that night.
Except, again, nobody knew what Bosch would say. And even if he said he provided drugs to someone, that didn’t necessarily make it true. Up until last week, Bosch was a shady character being sued by MLB and under investigation himself. Suddenly, he was a credible witness?
Everyone knows Braun successfully challenged the only drug test he ever failed that showed an above average testosterone level in 2011. An independent arbitrator threw out those results because of questions about the security of the testing procedure.
That’s not a technicality. It was the independent decision of a professional arbitrator. To try to assure it never again received such an independent, unbiased judgment, MLB immediately fired the arbitrator. But it also corrected problems with its testing.
As far as we know, none of the 20 players whose names were blackened in the latest wild speculation failed any drug tests.
As one of the greatest, most exciting players in baseball, all Braun has ever done for us in Milwaukee is negotiate reasonable, long-term contracts designed to keep him here for his entire career instead of pursuing even bigger money under brighter lights somewhere else.
There’s no reason to hate on Braun for making lots of money or just because he endures ugly catcalls in other ballparks that aren’t backed by any verified evidence.
While fans are at it, only a third of the way through the season and as frustrating as the Brewers’ record is so far, don’t believe anyone who tells you there’s not some great baseball to see in this town.
Five or six players have been batting over .300 most of the year. And the breakout seasons of shortstop Jean Segura and centerfielder Carlos Gomez at the plate, in the field and especially on the base paths, shouldn’t be missed.
Or you could just call some cranky radio show and demand Roenicke, general manager Doug Melvin and the whole team be fired.