Ryan Braun walked to the plate at Miller Park to a chorus of mostly cheers. Sure, there were some boos, as was expected, but it was the best reaction that Braun could have possibly hoped for. The fans reacted as if they hadn’t seen their best player in 8 months.
The truth is, we have seen a little bit of Braun in the last 8 months. We’ve seen him do an ‘impromptu’ apology/admission press conference. We saw him do a a more formal presser in Arizona. We saw him signing autographs at Brewers On Deck. We saw him hit a home run in his first spring at bat. But mostly, we saw his name in the paper and on the internet. We heard his name on our TV and radio, being lambasted by the press and by baseball fans around the league.
It’s not just the past 8 months, either. Braun’s trouble goes back to December of 2011, when news of his failed drug test first leaked. It’s been nearly impossible to talk about the team without somebody noting that Ryan Braun is a jackass. It’s been tiring.
On Monday, when Braun walked to the plate, many fans gave him a standing ovation, much to the national media’s dismay. Much to their disgust in some cases.
I wasn’t at the game, as I’ve recently moved out of state, but I would have been standing right with those fans. It’s not because I support what he did; no Brewers fans are happy anything that Braun did in regards to PEDs. It’s because we’re sick of the negativity. We’re sick of baseball taking a backseat to what Braun is or isn’t saying. We’re ready to move on.
I still vividly remember the feeling of my stomach crashing to the ground when I read the news that Braun failed his drug test in December of 2011. I had come into work on the weekend to finish some things when the news hit Twitter. The word, ‘shocked’ only begins to scratch the surface. There should be some kind of fire drill for steroids that you practice so that you know how to deal with it when the time comes. As questions raced through my head, I hit the message boards to see what the die-hards were saying. Turns out, most people were defending him. Then a thought went through my head. “We’re gonna be the Giants, aren’t we?”
We don’t have to be happy with what he has done in order to support what he will do. That is what the cheering is about. We are not cheering for lozenges. We are not cheering for publicly implicating an innocent man. We are not cheering the continued lack of comment. We are cheering for the best player on our team. We want him to know that we support him going forward, something he probably hasn’t heard much of for the last 15 months, and damn it if Brewers fans were going to let him hear the boos. We’re OK with the boos. We understand the boos (Who am I to tell you how to react?). We just don’t want that to be our message to him.
It’s cathartic. We’re ready to move on. We’ve been ready to move on from the constant negativity for quite some time, and nothing is a better catalyst here than Braun playing baseball. In a way, cheering Ryan Braun’s first regular season at bat since his suspension was a release of pent up frustration. Braun fucked up, yet we feel like we’ve been paying for it for more than a year. The logical reaction would be to boo him, but fandom is hardly a logical thing. Grant Brisbee very eloquently pointed that out here in July. A fandom that boos it’s best player is a pretty depressing fandom.
We cheered Ryan Braun not only because he’s a Brewer, but because he’s vital to the Brewers’ success. He may have turned into the heel, but he’s our heel, and without him, there isn’t exactly a lot to be positive about. If Braun were traded today, many of those fans that gave him a standing ovation would boo him when he came back. Look what happened with Brett Bielema. Bielema was cheered while he was coaching the Badgers to Rose Bowls, but the moment he left, fans let loose how they really felt about him. But because he’s here, because he’s given us a lot of happiness in the past, and because he can give us more happiness in the future, we’re going to support Braun.
That’s not to say Brewers fans dislike Braun. He has plenty of time for redemption, but he wouldn’t exactly be leaving on good terms. The point is that cheering, even if it’s done loudly and while standing, sometimes just means, “Hey, do something cool.”