One thing that’s always struck me about elite athletes is the great sense of entitlement many of them seem to have.
Tiger Woods certainly had it while cavorting around the world and winning majors by the handful, and Barry Bonds displayed it even as his head swelled up along with his home run count.
And then there’s Ryan Braun, whose performance — and, yes, it sure seemed like a performance — before reporters last week in Arizona could be used in future textbooks on the subject. In just a short period of time he reminded everyone that he’s the National League MVP and the guy with the new $105 million contract, and to question what he has to say about anything would be foolish.
He declared himself innocent, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Said the truth was on his side, when there was no evidence of that at all.
Then he threw a poor urine collector under the bus because, well, he was just a poor urine collector and he was the National League MVP and the guy with the megamillion contract.
Well, guess what? The urine collector isn’t going to go easy.
Dino Laurenzi Jr. has never been paid a penny to hit a baseball. Dozens of fans don’t line up to get his autograph every time he comes out of a big-league locker room toting yet another cardboard specimen box with tamper resistant seals. It’s something he’s done hundreds of times before.
But he’s got a reputation to protect, too. A family that, like Braun’s, is proud of what he does. A career as a former teacher and athletic trainer and, currently, the director of rehabilitation services at a health care facility.
To infer, as Braun did last week, that Laurenzi did something fishy with the urine sample wasn’t just wrong. It was a despicable attempt to divert attention from the sample itself to the collector of the sample. Equally troubling — that it was mentioned when there was no suggestion from anyone, other than Braun, that there was tampering. And it targeted the wrong guy.
Laurenzi came to his own defense Tuesday, issuing a statement because his only other alternative would be to idly sit by while his reputation was shattered by Braun.
“This situation has caused great emotional distress for me and my family,” Laurenzi said. “I have worked hard my entire life, have performed my job duties with integrity and professionalism, and have done so with respect to this matter and all other collections in which I have participated.”
Here’s one thing I know: Braun needs to apologize to Laurenzi, and he needs to do it publicly.