Friday, July 25, 2008

From the Pages of Bugs & Cranks

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
That certainly does not cover every base or all the ups and downs that have transpired in the life of Joshua Holt Hamilton from his start as a high school phenom to a Major League All-Star, but it gives you the gist. I'm not here to trumpet his return anyway.

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?

* * * * * * * * * *

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?

2 comments:

Chalk said...

Spenster,

I couldn't agree more that Josh Hamilton is not as bad as a child molester. He never intentionally tried to harm children or anyone. Although I guess with driving while loaded, he could've taken out a whole busload of kids. But the kids that survived the wreck would probably be less permanently scarred than if he had had his way with them.

I was rooting for Hamilton right along with you until I heard the thing about him firing his agent for not being Jesus-y enough. I can't root for a bigot (well, except maybe curt schilling). Dude's a recovering drug addict with a 24-hour-a-day professional babysitter and he's going to take all that money away from a guy who helped him get where he is in baseball, and call it morality and religion?

What Josh Hamilton is doing physically is certainly amazing and a good story. You're right -- he's freakishly good at baseball to be able to abuse his body and mind for that long and be able to come up and do what he's doing. But what do we know about his personality that makes you think he is a good guy or a good example? He's just very very lucky. Kind of like Keith Hernandez was lucky that he developed less of a dependency on cocaine than Straw or Doc Gooden or Hamilton.

Also, how much is just ego at this point -- that you called his success last March and will defend him no matter what?

E. Spencer Kyte said...

Chalk,

The agent thing is getting blown out of the water in my books. The guy he let go wasn't with him "through it all" as people seem to think, rather he came on board last year heading into Cincy.

While I don't know him personally - though I do hope to interview him one day - what makes me think he is a good dude or a good example thus far is the humility and acceptance for who he is that he has shown since returning. He'll be the first to tell you that HE fucked up and no one made him do anything, which is a major selling point with me. Too many people are quick to blame everyone else but themselves and so far, Hammy has been the opposite.

Not much of this is ego either - yeah, I love that I got on board last March, but I just truly do not understand all the negativity towards this guy. There are much, much worse people not only in the world but in the world of sports than Josh Hamilton.