Photo by Ben Smidt
Well, that sure came out of left field.
Milwaukee woke up this morning thankful that Thanksgiving was 24 hours away, and learned that a Ryan Braun press conference was mere minutes away.
Braun further broke his public silence today with an out-of-the-blue 9 a.m. media session. It was the first time the Milwaukee Brewers slugger faced cameras and reporters since Major League Baseball suspended him under its performance enhancing drug policy. The backdrop for his chat was a charity event for the Hunger Task Force in the Miller Park parking lot. And while you can question whether speaking about his PED suspension matches the charitable spirit, the counterargument is that a lot more people know there was a Hunger Task Force event today.
But do a lot more people now think differently of Ryan Braun?
I doubt it.
If you supported him before the presser, he surely reinforced that support. If you thought he was a liar and a phony, you’ve surely got reason to keep on thinking it.
Because Braun was, well, Braun. Polished, well-prepared, well-spoken, professional Ryan Braun.
He has always excelled at the public relations aspect of his job, to the point that such expertise can forcefully backfire, as did the well-crafted but now completely disingenuous Maryvale press conference. His performance then was why so many people believed he was innocent. It’s also why so many people now question whether they can ever trust what such a good performer says.
The same PR expertise was on display again this morning. He looked sharp in his long, black winter coat and didn’t flinch from the biting temperatures in the teens. He looked his questioners in the eye. He spoke in smooth, even, unconcerned tones. He even timed the appearance perfectly, knowing that the news cycle would soon brush it aside in favor of Thanksgiving coverage that includes Thursday’s Green Bay Packers game.
He said all of the right things, touching on much of the same themes he previously made in his lengthy written statement. How he made mistakes. How he’s remorseful about those mistakes. How he’ll keep trying to regain people’s trust. How he’s appreciative of the support he’s received. How he’s focused not on looking backward, but moving forward.
He even said that he had dinner with the man who may have been most wronged, innocent test collector Dino Laurenzi. It was Braun’s public tarnishing of Laurenzi that made him different from previous PED cheats, and it fueled much of the anger directed toward Braun. But now, Braun says, “We’ve made amends.”
And he stayed reverently on message, sticking to his talking points, even when questioners tried to steer him in other directions. Just one example.
Q: In your opinion, was the bigger sin using the PEDs or lying about it after the fact?
A: You know, as I’ve stated, I think the goal for me is just being able to move forward. I’m not really going to get into too many specifics about what happened other than saying that I’m extremely remorseful. I wish that I could go back and change things, but I don’t have that opportunity to do that, so I’m just going to do everything in my power to move forward.
That answer touched on another of Braun’s main themes: How he’s not going to get into specifics. It’s the mantra he fell back on in lieu of answering a question that he didn’t want to answer. He will give the responses he wants to give, not the ones that his detractors want to hear.
In short, the first look at his “after” image was strikingly similar to his “before” one. So if you loved him before, you love him now. And if you didn’t, well, he’s got to move forward. If you wanted a tearful, emotional, spilling-of-the-guts display to change your mind, to show how genuinely different he was, you were left wanting.
This is who Ryan Braun is, or at least the face that he presents to the public. Behind the scenes, he might very well be doing things differently. In fact, there’s been some evidence to support that, such as personally calling season ticket holders and working with Hunger Task Force.
But in front of the cameras, where most people see him, he’s the same man. You will be cool with it, or you won’t. He’s not changing that image, and so you probably aren’t changing your mind.
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