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Tag Archives: Josh Hamilton

2006-06-06-hamilton-large

Unfortunately, the reports are true. Josh Hamilton, the baseball star who overcame drug addictions and alcoholism to storm his way back to the major leagues, admitted over the weekend that he had a relapse in January.

Why did he admit it now?

Well, because a website posted pictures of him in which he is clearly drunk—and clearly carousing with women who are not his wife. If the carousing weren’t incriminating enough, he’s shown in the bar wearing nothing but jeans and a wifebeater. That only happens when someone is hammered—or white trash.

I don’t think he’s the latter.

I am a big fan of Josh Hamilton. I read his autobiography and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I gave a copy to my dad this past Father’s Day.

So when I heard this news, I was crestfallen. In fact, when ESPN first reported it, I muttered out loud, “No…no…no…” for the duration of the video segment.

Hamilton has often cited his relationship with Jesus in interviews, crediting God with helping him overcome his personal demons. As someone who has done enough serious drugs (not recently) to understand that temptation, and as a fan of Hamilton’s, I’ve worried that he would relapse. And I worried about what that might do for his Christian witness.

In the last few days, he has already been labeled a hypocrite. Partly because he wrote a book about overcoming these struggles, and now, apparently, some wonder if he really overcame them. Others wonder why we’re just now hearing about this relapse if it happened back in January. But in response to that last question, I ask: Why do we have a right to know any of this stuff?

Josh admitted the relapse to his wife and his team, the Texas Rangers, the day after it happened. So he did own up to it immediately; but there was no need to make it public. Because Josh doesn’t report to us.

But pictures leaked out, as pictures are wont to do. And now we all know.

Which brings me to the reason I’m blogging about this: As soon as the pictures were posted, Josh called a press conference and admitted the rumors were true.

As much as I admired Josh Hamilton, and as much as I had hoped that he wouldn’t relapse, I’m even more impressed by the class he exhibited with this response. Don’t agree? Look at just a handful of current stories involving other pro athletes:

  • Over the weekend, David Ortiz held a press conference to respond to the allegations that he tested positive for steroids in 2003 (just like the other accused baseball players have done), and Ortiz claimed that he never took steroids, that his positive test must have been the result of legal over-the-counter supplements that he was on at the time…
  • Over the weekend, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and his brother beat up a cab driver (a 62-year-old man) because he didn’t have correct change for them…
  • On ESPN last night, NFL player Dante Stallworth spoke publicly for the first time about the night in March when he killed a pedestrian while driving drunk (with marijuana in his system, too).
  • Stallworth served 30 days in prison, and then he was released. For driving drunk and killing a guy. And in some ways, his character hasn’t been maligned as much as Josh Hamilton’s. Even though all Hamilton did was drink in a bar. He wasn’t driving under the influence. And he didn’t kill anybody.

    But I guess I shouldn’t say “all Hamilton did was drink…” Just drinking in a bar is a big deal for an alcoholic—and it’s something Hamilton has acknowledged he can no longer do, saying, “I can’t have just one beer. That doesn’t work for me.”

    But because Hamilton has been so outspoken about his faith, and because he has been so lauded for turning his life around, he attracts the kind of resentment we reserve solely for those we have lifted up to stand on a pedestal above us.

    Whether Hamilton wants to be on that pedestal or not, he’s on it. Or at least, he was.

    And when so many of us have admired him, when so many of us have attached ourselves to the Josh Hamilton story—drawing inspiration and hope from the resurrection of his life and career—we won’t tolerate this mistake. Josh Hamilton’s relapse tarnishes his story. But no, it’s not just his story anymore. His life is a source of strength for hordes of others dealing with alcoholism, addictions, and loved ones who just might—finally—kick their addiction once and for all…

    And we love that story. We love that hope.

    And I wonder if Josh Hamilton just learned that restoring hope isn’t nearly as hard as sustaining it.

    Well, he has a chance to restore that hope again. And so far, his response has been admirable:

    1) Unlike other athletes, he owned up to his mistake.
    2) He learned from it. In the 7 months since the incident, Hamilton says he hasn’t messed up again.
    3) He also addressed the claims that he is a hypocrite by saying, “I’m not a hypocrite; I’m human.” He wasn’t excusing his actions, but he was acknowledging that he made a mistake—a mistake made by more than 50% of recovering alcoholics.

    Though I am still discouraged to learn about Hamilton’s actions that night in January, I am not disappointed in Josh. In fact, I think I admire him more than I did before all of this.

    His willingness to be honest about his mistakes has done even more to set him apart. Sure, he’s still fighting a daily battle. He knows that better than we do.

    And unlike most of us, he’s man enough to stand up to the microphone and speak honestly about the man in the mirror (or the man in the wifebeater photographed doing body shots in a bar), even when it’s ugly.

    And if you ask me, that’s all the more reason to cheer for Josh Hamilton.

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