So you have been accused of cheating – steroids, spitballs, or some other kind of no-no – and you ARE actually guilty of the offense, what do you do?
In my outline below, I will cover what a person of good conscience would do, especially if they truly loved the game of baseball and wanted to regain their reputation as soon as possible.
- Admission of Guilt – This seems pretty self-explanatory. As we have witnessed in the “Ryan Braun scenario”, the truth will eventually come out. If you own the truth right away, without lies, cover-ups, or false reverse-accusations, your basic credibility is still somewhat intact. Sure, you still chose to cheat, but you freely admit to cheating, making the recovery process begin much sooner.
- Sincere Apology to The People Affected By Your Actions – I have italicized the word “sincere” since that part cannot be stressed enough. No one wants a Paula Deen “apology” (waterworks, veiled passing of blame, and martyrdom do not fly well), nor does the most recent Ryan Braun “apology” fly well either (a statement more than likely written by your lawyer/agent that says absolutely NOTHING). Now, it’s true that you do not owe anyone an apology, but setting a good example and doing it for your piece of mind just might help the healing process for all. After all, you do play a game that – at its heart – is a child’s game.
- Detail What Exactly You Did – Again, you owe no one your admission of guilt, your sincere apology, or your story detailing your cheating, but if you do all three of these steps, you just might be perceived as a person who messed up, BUT who still cares about the game and how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen going forward. It is very rare that a MLBer ever admits to what drug they used, let alone how they nearly got away with it (they certainly never tell how long they did it… you can’t really believe that the general public accepts that it was always “just once”, can you?!). If you share (at least with MLB) every step of how you cheated and how you covered it up, this will make further cheating harder to do. Since the majority of baseball players are not cheaters, this would probably be looked upon in a good light from the Players’ Union, would it not? Why subject innocent players to a litany of tests if we know exactly what to look for and HOW to look for cheating? If you decide to share this with the general public as well, I would advise that you share your story with college and high school athletes, in hopes that you may be able to curb steroid usage before reaching the professional level.
- Agree to Scrutiny and Additional Testing – “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” That will be the public sentiment. You will never be able to take back your actions, but you can prove that from this point forward you are NOT a cheater. If you really have reformed and want to clear your name, why not agree to fully random testing year-round (an unspecified number of times)? The easiest way to back-up your “I’m clean now” claim is to show it the only way possible, by fluid testing – the science can’t lie (just ask Ryan Braun and Lance Armstrong).
- Take the Offense Seriously, But Know When to Laugh – This goes hand-in-hand with my final point (step #6), but know that people will be creative in the signs and jeers at ballgames. It is a serious offense, but do not entirely close yourself down and put up a wall. The best strategy would be to acknowledge it early, let people have their say, and try to move on. Do NOT fight back; people just want to see you lose it and show that you haven’t changed – the cheater is a complete a-hole (A-Rod syndrome).
- Know That Your Reputation Will Take A LONG Time to Restore – You will lose some fans, probably some endorsements, and hopefully some salary (hey, you cheated, don’t expect to be rewarded). I will not go into your accolades, as the eligibility for certain awards/recognition is a whole debate in itself, but your image is hopefully at the lowest point it will be – unless you are an idiot and CHOOSE to cheat again (again, A-Rod syndrome). By listening to the fans, communicating to all parties – your teammates, ownership, MLB, the MLBPA, fans, and youth baseball – you can slowly earn back some trust. Some people will always hate you, and some will always love you – it’s kind of like my junior high coach said, “Don’t worry. At the end of the day your grandma will still love you.” – it’s the 60-80% of the people in between that you can actually influence with your future behavior. It’s a long path, and by no means do I have all of the answers (or steps) listed – I’ve never played professional sports, let alone used steroids – but there IS a path to redemption… it’s up to you to pave the way.
What do you think? Any steps that I missed that as a fan would make it easier to accept a guilty party and move forward?
The biggest thing that I can remind fans of is this:
Do not whitewash history; PED usage was/is real. We, as fans, may even want to go through the steps above and admit to how we were suckered into it and let this “epidemic” creep into our sport(s). We may not want to include these cheaters as part of our history, but by excluding their stories we may be doomed to repeat ourselves (not exclusively limited to PEDs).