I asked a few of my Jewish sports acquaintances for their takes on the Ryan Braun situation. Here are their responses.
* Howard Megdal, author of The Baseball Talmud and the forthcoming Wilpon’s Folly: “If it turns out that Ryan Braun did take an illegal substance, it’s unquestionably bad for the Jews. Not Bernie Madoff bad, but slightly worse than ‘They canceled The Goldbergs‘ bad.”
* Lawyer and blogger Andrew Wolfenson thinks “Braun’s Positive Drug Tests a Negative for Jews and Baseball.”
* MLB writer Jonathan Mayo — who has actually covered Braun as the ballplayer progressed through the minor leagues — contributes a column to his hometown Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. His latest comes the closest to my own opinion on the situation.
* Tablet’s Marc Tracy: “With the caveat that he denies the accusation and we can’t seem to know for sure yet whether he is guilty of taking PEDs, I think this shows the peril of investing much of one’s sense of self-worth in the character of a total stranger, which is what the Jewish identification with Jewish athletes essentially is.”
I asked, “Can we agree that he took something that made for a positive result, even if it was never intended as a PED (which is my theory)?” To which he replied, “Seems that way! If I were laying odds I’d say it’s a Manny [Ramirez]-type situation, where one of the masking agents showed up.”
* Martin Abramowitz, the creator behind the Jewish Major Leaguer card set, wrote the issue of Braun’s religion would be
Fair if these outlets also previously described him as a Jewish MVP.
By the way, I’m reminded of the story told of Theodore Herzl’s response when a fellow Zionist came to him with the shocking and tragic news that, in the Land of Israel, athe authorities had actually apprehended the first Jewish thief. Herzl’s response: something like: “How wonderful; at last we’re a normal nation, with our own thieves.”
By the way, I’m not implying that Braun is guilty as charged. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to learn of his innocence. Meanwhile, a la the Joe Jackson episode, “Tell us we shouldn’t be cryin’, Ryan.”
* Rabbi Jason Miller, who frequently blogs about the confluence of Judaism and sports, wrote
As a Conservative Jew I follow matrilineal descent in a Halachic (Jewish legal) framework which means that because Ryan Braun’s father is Jewish but not his mother, I would not consider him Jewish for such things as the officiation of a wedding or to be honored with an aliyah in synagogue. However, since he considers himself to be Jewish, I regard him as a Jewish baseball player (several current major leaguers fall into this camp). Thus, if I regard Braun as a Jewish player when he wins the NL Rookie of the Year award (2007) or the NL MVP award (2011), I have to regard him as a Jewish player when he fails a performance enhancing drug test.
I remain hopeful that the test was faulty and that Braun will get his good name back. It is a sad and unfortunate turn of events for this very talented player. Jewish children are in need of good role models and no matter if Braun doesn’t count in many people’s Halachic definition of a Jewish person, he has served as a good role model during his Major League Baseball career as he has been in the public spotlight. Certainly this will change if the results of the drug test are validated. Cheating is a clear violation of Jewish values and I’m praying that Braun will be vindicated.
* And veteran Star-Ledger columnist and author Jerry Izenberg said, “Don’t have a clue what he did or did not take and neither does any other writer or broadcaster. If he did it, he deserves whatever he gets (I have never voted for Mark McGwire for the Hall of Fame and did not this year; same for all of them including Roger C[lemens]). But I have seen test error or reasonable explanations before so I think it wise to withhold any judgment until we really know, But circumsized or uncircumsized, [Braun] is a hell of a baseball player.