Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Where I rant about Josh Hamilton

I’m going to write about Josh Hamilton. I promised myself I wouldn’t. Told myself to just shut up about it because everyone has an opinion and mine will probably offend a good portion of society and what purpose will it serve anyway? So I decided the safe way to go would be to just ignore what’s going on with Josh Hamilton and let everyone else praise him or bash him or whatever comes in between the two.

But that really isn’t me.

So this is your warning…as well as your spoiler alert because I can save some (most?) of you a lot of time by telling you that what I’m going to write about Josh Hamilton at the least won’t be complimentary and at worst might just genuinely offend some folks.  Now that I’ve done that, I’ll proceed.

I spent the better part of my time on this earth involved either by blood or by choice with addicts.  Alcoholism and drug addiction have played a huge part in my life and the only thing that has lessened that place is the death of some people I was very close with who dealt with the addiction demons for much too long.  I only share that brief glimpse into my life to curtail the many “if you understood addiction you wouldn’t feel this way” people.  Sadly, I understand addiction better than a good many people.

So on to Josh Hamilton.

Ultimately, I don’t think the media’s (and subsequently, most of the fans’) adoration of him is entirely of his doing.  Everyone loves an underdog story. We all want to see people who have struggled to overcome their struggles and do well.  Personally, I held out hope for Milton Bradley until the reports came out about him threatening to kill his wife.  So I get the overall instinct to root for someone who seems doomed to fail.  But the lengths that so many have gone to in trying to get the message out about how amazing Josh Hamilton is have turned me off to him.  (And I’ve written two posts pointing out what I consider flaws that turn me off that have nothing to do with his addictions.)  Is the coverage of him his fault?  Maybe not.  But he did go out and write about about himself and his recovery and made the fact that he’s a recovering addict a big part of his public persona.  So when those same writers who were making sure we knew how amazing he was are now writing about this being his second PUBLIC relapse, well I have a difficult time either garnering sympathy for him or anger toward the writers.

In October of 2010 I wrote this in a post about CJ Wilson:

I get a lot of grief about my feelings on Josh Hamilton. Here’s the thing: If you want me to be proud of or impressed by a player because they publicly talk about how they don’t do drugs or drink, I’ll take CJ Wilson over Josh Hamilton every chance I get. I understand (all too well, really) that Hamilton has a drug problem and that it’s not an easy thing to control. But, as I’ve stated many times, being a recovering addict makes you no more of a “hero” or good guy than they guy who didn’t make the decision to start using drugs (or alcohol or whatever else you become addicted to) in the first place. I wish Hamilton well with his continued efforts at living a “clean” life. I absolutely do. But if I have to make a choice, I’d rather kids tried to emulate CJ Wilson than Josh Hamilton. And it would be nice if MLB, MLBN, Fox Sports, ESPN and any other sports media outlet that will be going out of there way to make a hero of out of Hamilton this postseason would devote some time to his teammate. His story might not be as dramatic as Hamilton’s but it’s, at the very least, just as impressive.

I still feel this way. How many in MLB sit and look at Josh Hamilton and shake their heads wondering why he gets so much positive attention for being an addict?  Isn’t there a way to acknowledge Hamilton’s struggle (and success) without making him out to be better or more important than players who haven’t been in that situation?

Remember the 2008 Home Run Derby?  That year, Justin Morneau became the first Canadian player to win the derby. You might not remember that because in that same derby, Josh Hamilton set a derby record for most home runs in a round with 28.  I won’t lie…it was impressive even if he didn’t win.  But the larger issue was that even with that impressive outing, he DIDN’T win, Justin Morneau did.  Yet ESPN spent more time on Hamilton than Morneau giving us the “comeback” stuff and talking about his amazing story.

Here’s the thing.  His story isn’t “amazing” to me.  He has Major League Baseball to take care of him.  He has plenty of money to spend on hiring people to watch over him and make sure he doesn’t lapse.  Jerry Narron, now with the Brewers, was his “accountability partner” thanks to the Rangers.  At the beginning of 2012, Hamilton’s father-in-law took on the job and only two weeks later changed his mind citing his own daughter and his work as reasons he couldn’t do it.  His father-in-law went on to say he didn’t think Hamilton needed someone to watch over him on the road and that sometimes Narron didn’t go out with him.  Fast forward another two weeks and we’re getting a press conference from Hamilton talking about his most recent public relapse.  (As an aside, I keep referring to it as a “public” relapse because who knows what he’s doing privately.  This and the event depicted on Deadspin in 2009 and the only two that have happened  in public that we know about.)

This is the second time Hamilton has called a press conference to discuss his having a relapse with alcohol.  While I don’t deny just the fact he feels the need to call press conferences to discuss this could be proof that he thinks he has a problem, I’m not convinced it doesn’t also mean he enjoys the publicity.  That’s one of the most frustrating parts of the Josh Hamilton saga.  Unlike most addicts, he has access to the best help at his fingertips. All he has to do is hire someone to accompany him and step in when he falters, but he didn’t.  All he had to do was go and get himself help if he really thought he needed it and instead he goes to the press.  Others will point to this being the addiction wrapping him up…and maybe it is.  But why does Hamilton warrant the kid gloves the fans and media use on him?  By the start of the 2011 season, five players had been arrested for drinking and driving.  Five.  There were no stories about how we should be sympathetic to their plight. Noone worried that Derek Lowe is an alcoholic (which has long been rumored starting back to his days in Boston) and needs help.  For whatever reasons, Josh Hamilton is a figure that people look at with pity and sympathy and, I’m sorry, I just can’t muster any of it for him any more.

You know what impresses me?  I have a cousin who struggled for years with drug addiction.  Pretty much left the entire family (including her children) because the drugs were more important than anything else.  In the process she did a lot of damage to her body and now struggles every day with the pain she’s left herself in, as well as her having to repair relationships that were destroyed.  She was poor, practically living on the street and refusing help from anyone who offered it.  And one day she realized how much she was missing and losing and got herself in a neighborhood program and is still working hard every day to stay clean and improve her life.  No one is lining up to give her a job or write about how amazing she is…and she doesn’t expect it.  That impresses me.  She isn’t doing it to make millions of dollars and get her picture plastered all over the news. She’s doing it because she has to and as hard as it is for her she gets up every day and realizes what she has to do that day to stay alive.  Every addict is different and every one deserves second chances.  But don’t tell me having the money to get any amount of help you need and then being stupid enough to put yourself in those situations in spite of that is impressive or worth honoring.

Hamilton’s own words at his press conference yesterday indicate that he knew exactly what he was doing.  And he certainly didn’t shy away from placing the blame on himself  (except, much like he blamed Dave Anderson when he broke his arm, he put the reasoning on his going to a bar the other night on “personal reasons” with a member of his family).  So it isn’t my intent to say “screw him”.  But I tire of all the “let’s pray for Josh” “poor Josh” messages I keep seeing if only because if you look at what happened yesterday, all this did was add another chapter to his life for the likes of Joe Buck to point to during the 2012 season saying “Isn’t it amazing how he’s come back from such adversity yet again?”

No. It isn’t amazing.  Maybe it will be encouraging to someone watching him and I truly hope that’s the case.  But for me, Josh’s story is not amazing…it’s tiring.  I wish him good health and I wish him recovery if that’s what he truly wants.  But I also wish for people to stop writing about him like he’s the reason I should care about baseball and humanity.

Back in my Red Sox Chick days, I used my blog as an outlet not only for my happy fandom, but for my frustrations at the Red Sox and baseball in general.  There’s a part of me that feels like that passion is missing from my blog as of late.  2012 is already gearing up to be a season when I get back to my roots with the Red Sox (Nick Punto?  Really??)  and the Josh Hamilton story is probably just the beginning.  Fair warning.

February 4, 2012 - Posted by | 2012 | , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I’m not here to defend him. I do pray for anyone who has an addiction as I too am closely involved with those who have one and fight it daily. Typically the addiction is the symptom of a much deeper mental issue or problem…but I’m not so sure that’s the case with Hamilton. Agreed, he should not have ‘put it out there’ so soon into his recovery. Recovery is tough and it’s a life long process for some….so yes he should have waited till his career was over to write about it. I will tell you that recently I’ve heard through some sources here that during his recovery and physical rehab in the minor league team here in Texas(near to Austin), he had been seen drinking but it was kept quiet. I’m sick of the media and people ‘glorifying’ athletes like gods. But it does sell newspapers and magazines I guess.

    Comment by Tex19 | February 4, 2012 | Reply

  2. I dunno. I think I get what you’re saying, Cyn, though I admit I haven’t followed The Josh Hamilton Story closely and don’t have a strong opinon about it. But media hype on a multitude of subjects is nauseating: TV squalking heads repeating slogans about particular players until I have to turn off the sound in order to sustain my will to watch the sporting event in progress. I have no idea what’s actually the case with any of these folks, and only an inkling, in a few cases, of how voluntarily the individual player participates in the carnival that develops around his name. In this case the dude wrote a book. Because he wanted the pub, or because he hopes to help other addicts? I don’t know the answer to that question, and the answer would mean everything to me. So I have no opinion of Josh Hamilton either way. If some perception of his story helps another person struggling with addiction or helps dissuade someone from sliding down that path, I’m grateful that’s the case. There are a number of recovering addicts in the game whose stories have been really educational to folks like me in less public walks of life, and when these athletes have let the public know of their addiction and efforts to recover I’ve often experienced that as a stand-up thing to do. I remember when Dennis Eckersley talked about his alcoholism; that made a huge impression on me. I appreciated his honesty a great deal–because it did seem like simple honesty. A struggle with addiction is not a slogan to pin to somebody’s career.

    Comment by Elaine Apthorp | February 4, 2012 | Reply

  3. When I first read that he was counting on a combination of a fierce public religiosity and a contractually mandated traveling minder, I said to myself, he’s not likely to make it. That’s not how it works. Then when he made such an exhibition of the home run derby second round–so much so that he got the lion’s share of publicity–but didn’t actually win either for himself or for his team, I thought to myself, his head is not in the right place. The public relapse also indicated to me that there were probably private relapses and that his ego will defeat him again and again. Sobriety requires a lot of humility. And that’s no way the same thing as well-crafted apologies and crocodile tears at a press conference.

    Alcoholics are incredibly stubborn and stupid about their addiction. Being able to sign contracts for millions and have public adulation almost whenever they want must make it easy to lie to themselves and truly difficult to face the truth that they absolutely cannot have just a little bit, just in the off season, just this one time, of a sip of their drug of choice.

    So Josh Hamilton is commonplace; he is in no way the best or worst of those millions of people who could not get out of their own way well enough to stay clean and sober. He joins a host of talented, beautiful, lovable and damned people who wrecked their own lives and swept like a tornado through the lives of everyone who cared about them.

    (When I saw your headline, for a moment I feared he was on his way to Boston. I don’t know if your faithful readers could have handled that column!)

    Comment by Anita | February 4, 2012 | Reply


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