Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Ryan Braun Story

The Ryan Braun story is a writers' workshop in disguise. Collectively, the media reports of the scandal read like an unfinished novel.

Ever since the confidentiality breach that spilled (leaked? sorry...) Braun's allegedly positive drug test into the public sphere and his appeal that stirred it into an full-blown controversy, sports fans have followed events of the case obsessively. Both prior to and following Braun's successful challenge of the result, we've continued to absorb, scrutinize, and dissect each new report with the fascinated attention usually reserved for NFL replays.

What has been a nightmare for both the player and Major League Baseball officials has become a wonderful exercise for budding writers. Here's your assignment: irrespective of your personal conclusions about Braun's veracity and the test's reliability, take the scenario in toto and create from it a cleverly crafted, multi-threaded work of popular fiction.

Do you choose a wry, comedic tone that divides the characters into good guys and bad guys, mocking the bad guys' motivations while still allowing them a certain integrity of purpose and conviction, à la Carl Hiassen's South Florida novels?

Do you fashion the story as a Stieg Larsson-meets-Patricia Cornwell medical suspense novel, choosing as your protagonist a smart, dragon-tattooed test lab assistant, alone in the world, who fends off dangerous challenges from powerful forces beyond her ken?

Are we witnessing a John le Carré entanglement of morally compromised operatives, their bosses' cynical public proclamations providing a nervous public with a reassuring cover story while concealing organizational machinations of dubious legality?

Is the Braun saga at its core an Aaron Sorkin screenplay, a workplace legal drama leading up to the conclusive scene in which the arbitrator rules for Braun, Tom Cruise receives a salute, and the fuming Marine colonel is taken away in handcuffs?

Is this a Shakespearean tragedy, a King Lear tale in which a powerful Commissioner, nearing the end of his reign, is undone in the end by a confluence of factors of his own devising?

Or is it a Dickensian redemption tale in which Ryan Braun is visited on the bases by three spirits -- the Ghosts of Princes Past, Rickies Present, and Aramises Future -- before being waved home by Ed Sedar?

Of course, you can always ditch the assignment, write a nine-minute beat poem, and major in Interdisciplinary Studies. The choice is yours!

One last tip to conclude our writer's workshop: as in reality, leaving certain details unsaid only heightens the suspense. In the wise words of Mark Harris' fictional pitching ace, Henry "Author" Wiggen, "Half the fight is knowing, and the other half is not telling."

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