For nearly two years now, I have been a voice of support in the comeback of Major League Baseball player Josh Hamilton.
The Coles Notes version of Hamilton's career, for those who don't know, goes like this:
- #1 Overall Draft Choice by Tampa Bay in 1999
- Injuries put him on the sidelines where he turned to tattoos and drugs
- Multiple suspensions from MLB
- Crack Addict
- October 2005 - Quit drugs, found God
- 27-year-old Rookie last year in Cincinnati
- Leading MLB in RBI in 2008
- Insane display in Home Run Derby during All-Star Festivities in New York
I'm bringing this B&C story here to iBlog because of the rash of comments and criticism Hamilton's story has gotten in the last few weeks, not only when myself and fellow B&C writer Andy Lenartz went back and forth (and back again) over his standing - not to mention a hilarious new post by Lenartz that even I can laugh at - but from the mass media in general and the difficulty I have with some people's take on the situation as a whole.
Let me start by saying that everyone is entitled to their opinions; I don't expect everyone to agree with the things that I say on a daily basis, just so long as they don't try to convince me that my POV is incorrect.
That being said, I don't get why so many people want to shit on the Josh Hamilton Story.
Two recent comments on the story by a dude calling himself "36" have me back on my soapbox about my favourite former crackhead.
One quick thing before getting into the meat of my frustration - when you can't spell struggle (two g's homey!) or despite (not dispight), you automatically lose credibility, Maybe that's just me though.
"36" tries to make Hamilton's past as a crack addict analogous to a child molester and wonders if the public would welcome said sexual predator the same way that some have taken to Hamilton, but the two are not even remotely comparable.
Hamilton ruined his life and those of his family and friends for the most part. He tried to kill himself five times by his own admission. He smoked crack like cigarettes (also something he has been quoted as saying) and fucked up royally.
But that isn't nearly the same thing as being a pedophile, is it? Hamilton hasn't abused any children, circulated child porn or heard the words, "I'm Chris Hanson with Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator."
Call it rose-couloured glasses or the fog of my admiration for Hamilton, but being a child molestor and being a drug addict aren't the same for me.
The other part of it is that Hamilton isn't just the recovering addict who lives next door and works at A&P - he leads Major League Baseball in RBI, has an outside shot at the American League Triple Crown and is doing all of this after being away from the game for nearly five full season mired in drug addiction.
Getting his life together and making it through each day bagging my produce and baked goods wouldn't warrant much fanfare outside of his own familial unit, yet alone in the Mainstream Media, but this kid is at the pinnacle of his profession - a profession that is hard enough to achieve in the first place - and people want to say that he's not worthy of the attention and admiration? For me, that doesn't make sense.
I would honestly like to challenge all the Josh Hamilton haters out there to stop doing what they do for a living, spend millions of dollars on drugs and emerse themselves fully into the lifestyle and culture of being an addict for the next five years or so and then try to return to their lives as accountants or teachers or whatever it is they do.
Getting a job at A&P would be an achievement and I very much doubt that any of them would ascend to the top of their profession of choice at all, if they could continue in that field in the first place, not to mention in less than three years.
The media is littered with negative stories everyday and have latched onto Hamilton as a positive story. Is that really all that bad?
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All the above being said, the one thing that doesn't escape me in all this is the hyprocrisy exhibited when it comes to athletes, actors, musicians et al when they struggle with drug addiciton compared to everyday people.
If Josh Hamilton couldn't swing a bat as well as he does, chances are he would simply be the guy packing my groceries at A&P or pumping my gas at Petro Canada, the same way that Robert Downey Jr. would have been serving jail time instead of making movies over the last fifteen years for his numerous drug offenses.
I'm sure there are people out there who have recovered from deeper depth than Downey or Hamilton or any of the other celebrity addicts over the years that do not recieve any attention at all for their battles. While that is a damn shame, it's also the world we live in.
We're a celebrity and entertainment driven culture and society, so the exploits of the known garner far greater exposure than the equally, if not more compelling stories of the unknown, and on a large scale that is never going to change.
Did Josh Hamilton deserve another chance? Maybe not, but he got it anyway and now he's making the most of it and then some.
Isn't it better to hear about someone succeeding rather than failing?