The Pressure of Choices
In the past 2 weeks, major league baseball player Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the season for links to Biogenesis, a Miami-based laboratory that has ties to Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED's). We do not know exactly what Braun did or did not do. He will not say because of "ongoing legal issues." He did have a failed drug test for elevated testosterone a couple of years ago but was not suspended due to an arbiters ruling on a technicality. At the time of the ruling, he said things like, "When you know you're innocent of something it's extremely difficult to have to prove it when you're in a process where you're 100 percent guilty until proven innocent," and "I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point." Betting your life on proving you're innocent when you are in fact guilty seems like a bad plan.
Also this week, 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel has continued his tired pattern of partying, rubbing elbows with celebrities, and getting kicked out of a frat party at his schools' arch-nemesis campus. His father Paul Manziel was quoted in an ESPN interview as saying, "It's one night away from the phone ringing, and he's in jail. And you know what he's gonna say? 'It's better than all the pressure I've been under. This is better than that.'"
Did I mention that Johnny is 20 years old and cannot legally drink alcohol? Or that his family, according to Yahoo Sports, is "a family of wealth" (his father is a successful home builder), and that Johnny drives a Mercedes? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but let's just say Johnny doesn't wonder if he is going to have to bus tables to make it through school.
The word "pressure" is not the first word that jumps to mind when reading about these two athletes. It might not even be in the top 10. But Paul Manziel's use of the word about his son might be the problem with not only these athletes but also society as a whole.
It is probably safe to say that the majority of American's would love to have the pressure faced by Braun or Manziel instead of the daily pressures of going to work, looking for a job, trying to put food on the table, etc. If you look a little deeper into the Braun situation, you might feel a twinge of pity that he is going to lose just over $3.5 million dollars. That would be a hit for anyone. Nevertheless, Braun recently signed a $100 million contract that does not kick in until next season. That means Braun cheated, was caught, and still profited from said cheating to the tune of $100 million. Not a bad outcome, if you ask me.
Manziel's situation is even more clear-cut. If his father thinks that all the pressure of being an elite college football player is worse than being in jail there is a simple fix: quit football. That is the flip answer, but it certainly is a viable option. His father has a successful business that Johnny can go work for. He can stay in school at Texas A&M and get a degree that will open other doors, and the fact that he already won the Heisman as the only freshman ever to do so will keep name recognition high enough to be an endorser for years to come.
Under pressure, indeed!
Several years ago when the first major PED scandal broke, current Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo admitted to using illegal substances and essentially said, "Yes, I used them. I knew a bunch of the hitters were too, so I wanted to still be able to compete." No excuses, no griping, just admitting it and moving on. This is why he became one of my favorite players in baseball. Not because he cheated, but because he was honest about it and (hopefully) stopped the bad behavior.
If Ryan Braun wants to gain respect, he should come out with a statement similar to this:
I used performance-enhancing drugs because I wanted to be the best player I could be. I knew that if I were caught I would be suspended for at least 50 games, but look at what I got instead. I received a $100 million contract. I was an MVP. I took the risk, got caught, and even though my name is dragged through the mud a bit, I still get to play baseball for a living and, did I mention, I get $100 million! Tell me any of you who wouldn't cheat at work if the worst that happened was a long unpaid vacation you could afford but got to come back at a about five times more that what you were making. I cheated, I lied, I got caught, and I set a horrible example. I won't do it again, and I will donate 20% of my ill-gotten contract to charity. (Leaves stage to flabbergasted sports writers staring in awe.)
But instead we have a professional athlete who won't cop to anything he has done wrong. He made the poor FedEx carrier of his original urine sample into a stooge. He lied on his own life and now hides behind "legal reasons" for his silence. Under pressure, of course.
In Manziel's case, I have already stated that he could quit. Or -- and this is a novel idea -- his parents could counsel him to quit drinking, quit flying around the country to hang out with famous people, get his behind home or back to school, and grow up. You know, what they used to call "parenting" in this country.
The problem I have with these two athletes and many of the people in today's society is they do not take personal accountability for any of their actions. They do not admit when they make mistakes and learn from them. Anthony Weiner was leading the mayoral race for New York City before a new round of scandals caught up with him. President Obama has called the scandals dogging him "phony" instead of actually trying to deal with them. Many in the Republican leadership are more worried about how they will be seen in reelection campaigns than in actually doing what their constituents think is right about ObamaCare, illegals, and a host of other issues. Those who rioted in Oakland after the Zimmerman verdict decided their rights to violently protest somehow trumped the rights of storeowners not to have their windows smashed. Even when voices like Bill O'Reilly make valid arguments about the black community and self-accountability, supported by black CNN anchor Don Lemon (if you can believe it!), he is called every name in the book.
The only pressure that athletes, politicians, or everyday citizens really need to worry about is doing the right thing. If they make good choices in their day-to-day lives, they will generally do well overall. No one lives a completely charmed life, but too often we make excuses for what we do wrong, we don't attempt to correct our behaviors, and we blame circumstances for our misfortune. Ryan Braun and Johnny Mainziel have opportunities that are available to very few, but they have access to all the excuses that the rest of us have. Unfortunately they have chosen to prove that doing the right thing is too difficult and that instead of being role models for youth, they have shown that cheating, lying, partying, and displaying poor character are the only way to deal with the pressures they faces.
Americans need to face their daily pressures with more class and grace than these two jokers.