I want to believe Ryan Braun. I really do. Unfortunately the Steroid Era has tainted me forever. In fact I don't really believe the era is over. It has most certainly changed gears. It has changed it's rules of engagement. It may even have changed it's rampant spread through the league, but the sad truth is that I don't think it will ever end.
In 1988 I was at a bar, most likely drunk on both beer and excitement as the crowd watched Ben Johnson run a 9.79 100m for Olympic gold . Three days later I remember the disappointment of having that moment of joy yanked away and turned into the tragic downfall of an athlete who was only days before anointed a national treasure. Baseball's Steroid Era was a prolonged ecstasy, as home runs races intoxicated the fans with few suspecting that their drinks were spiked. At the end of it I had that same feeling as I did with Ben Johnson's fall from grace, only magnified hundreds of times by the widespread use and the league's intentional disregard for the problem, ultimately failing to protect the integrity of the game that I love.
Fool me twice: shame on me.
So moving forward can I ever not temper my joy for a players success with a guarded understanding that this might not be real? I don't think so.
Fool me three times and I am plain and simply the fool.
I want to believe that all of my favorite players are clean, but I don't think any elite player in the game can completely escape the suspicion of a fan base that has endured the disappointments the MLB has produced. As a Toronto fan I really want to believe that a simple timing mechanism helped Jose Bautista not become Journeyman Joe instead become Joey Bats, but the reality is that we have seen too many of the games stars did it with drugs rather than skill and work ethic alone to let ourselves be completely fooled again.
I am not suggesting that Jose or any other slugger is guilty. My lifelong love of the game wants to see the great in the game. I want to see Jose Bautista remain at the top of his game and finish his career unblemished by a failed test or scandal. As a fan I feel that I need this in order to keep my love and passion for the sport alive. I hope for the sake of the fans and the game that our heroes have long careers where they do not face anything close to what Ryan Braun is going through right now. Based on the games history I can't help but steel myself against the possibility that no matter how much I want to believe that today's elite players are clean, they may still let me down.
That is the true legacy of the Steroid Era. More accurately it is the true legacy of performance enhancing drugs, and that is a shame for not only baseball, but all professional, collegiate and even amateur sports alike.