Kedren Johnson is young enough that he can expect to make a few more mistakes in his life.
We all err often in our youth and then — hopefully — with decreasing frequency as we age. For most, it is a necessary evil of life not to mention the best way to learn.
Johnson, a 20-year-old, already made a whopper. Although his transgression has not yet been specified it was egregious enough to get him kicked off Vanderbilt’s basketball team and out of school for at least a year, the latest development in a less-than-spectacular offseason for coach Kevin Stallings and his staff.
The good news for Johnson is that it’s clear he already knows how to accept responsibility and to apologize for his missteps. That is a skill or an art (or whatever it is) that many older, more accomplished athletes never master.
For proof, consider the comparison between the open letter Johnson issued through the Vanderbilt sports information department to that of the statement released by Major League Baseball All-Star and MVP Ryan Braun, a 29-year-old who a week earlier was suspended for his use of performance enhancing drugs.
Johnson said: “I feel it is my responsibility to inform everyone of some disappointing news. I have been suspended as a student from Vanderbilt University for one year for a mistake I made, the result of using some very poor judgment.”
Braun’s approach was to say: “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”
Johnson, although younger and much less accomplished, was the one who stepped up and plainly admitted he screwed up. Braun, on the other hand, turned to words like “now” and “some mistakes” as if he didn’t know the moment he broke the rules that he had done something wrong, or that “some mistakes” somehow tempers the degree to which he erred.
Johnson observed, “I have let down a lot of people including my own family, Coach Stallings and my teammates.”
Braun, on the other hand, offered “I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed — all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates.”
As if there was anyone among that group who was not disappointed in him and his actions.
Johnson concluded he “now must begin working to regain the trust and respect of my school, the student body, our fans and especially my coaches and friends on the team. I understand this will take time.”
Braun’s approach was to say “I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”
So all is forgiven then? Seems a pretty bold assumption given his positive test and subsequent acquittal on a technicality a couple years earlier and all the lies he told in the interim.
Each had more to say, albeit not much in Braun’s case. The differences in their respective approaches, though, speak volumes.
Johnson, the younger did not try to hide from or minimize anything he did. He recognized the full impact his actions had on others and promised to perform the necessary steps to overcome his own failings.
Braun did nothing of the sort. In this case, the student is the master.
According to a member of the Vanderbilt athletics department, Johnson was the primary architect of his own letter with only minimal help from university officials.
That he got it right does not excuse whatever it was that he did wrong. It did, however, show that he is accountable to himself and to those around him and gave the Vanderbilt community all the more reason to look forward to his eventual return to campus and the team.