Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My proverbial mouth is filling with proverbial blood right now. I have bit my tongue on this one but I finally decided to blog it out. Let’s talk about Josh Hamilton for a second. First off, let’s discuss how the news of the Body Shots Heard Round the World was broken to me on Saturday. A friend called me and without even saying hello, he asked me why “my boy” thinks it’s okay to ruin someone’s career and publish trashy tabloid-esque pictures of Josh Hamilton drinking at a bar with some girls on Deadspin. This is funny to me for many reasons. The first one being that my friend referred to Will Leitch as “my boy” though we have exchanged a total of two emails and Will no longer writes for Deadspin other than the occasional guest column. The second reason is that my gut reaction, which with a few days reflection has not changed a single bit, was “If you’ve made a name and source of income largely off of your position as God’s Sobriety Solider, pictures like that need to surface.” The story got funnier as my friend defended Josh Hamilton and lambasted Deadspin, saying that the account he heard on sports radio as the story broke was, “It’s him with a couple of girls around him at a bar.” While we were on the phone, I looked up the pictures on Deadspin. As my friend made his case against Deadspin, I interrupted him to say that I had found the pictures and then just repeated the word “Wow” over and over again. My friend said, “Are they that bad? How many of them are there?” I then went through each pictures with my descriptions getting more lurid in accordance with each picture. The phone call ended abruptly as my friend said, “Alright, I might need to go look at these. I’ll talk to you later.”

The most important caveat to the rant that I am about to issue forth is this: addicts slip up. Sobriety is an ongoing challenge. No one (at least no one I know) faults the guy for, as one Deadspin commenter said, realizing “This getting drunk in bars with hot college girls is fun. I miss the hell out of this.” Yes, we all know it’s a slippery slope from a few lemondrops off the suntanned stomach of a kinesiology major to blowing dealers for an eight ball. The guy should NOT be crucified (that will come in later) for relapsing. And he told his wife and his team what he did. Good for him. The fact that it appears that he either neglected to tell his sobriety coach, one who you might argue could totally use to know about something like this, or that he might have a sobriety coach who believes that honesty is not necessarily the best policy seems sketchvilles to me. When your sobriety coach denies the legitimacy of such pictures only to have you confirm their legitimacy the next day, methinks that the lines of communication may be frayed a bit. That’s, of course, the optimistic take on it. It would be far more disturbing to learn that your sobriety coach is also a cover-your-ass coach, wouldn’t it?

A big reason why I decided to blog about this, though I am most assuredly sick of hearing the name Josh Hamilton or anything about the topic at this point, is Richie Whitt. I don’t comment on the Dallas Observer Sportatorium blog that Richie Whitt writes. Or really any blog for that matter. But this is the first time I felt genuinely compelled to comment. Full disclosure: there are MANY things about which Richie and I disagree. Those topics include local sports radio preferences, his approach to certain local radio personalities habitual personal and professional failings, his insistence on the hotness of bony and boyish females. In fact, there are times when I think that, though we both love sports, it’s really only on politics where Richie and I seem to agree. I have never met the guy so it’s easy to have a neutral and unbiased opinion on his writing and views. But I was really happy to see him, in the wake of the Redi-Whip Ruination of Josh Hamilton, express the exact same frustrations and anger that I had over the whole situation.

People slip up, sure. The general public does not need to be informed of every personal and domestic problem in a pro athletes life, obviously. But when your image is almost exclusively contained under the guise of born-again Christian whose faith has made it possible for him to overcome addiction, you are different. You have set a bar for yourself which you not only must publicly measure up to but from which you also profit from both personally and monetarily. In other words, you make money from the views your espouse. You get paid for speeches. You get paid for books. You get paid for your story and the tales you spin about your ongoing ability to maintain your sobriety through your religious faith. Therefore, if you slip up, it’s like an auto recall. The whole car isn’t a write off. It will still drive. But you have to let people know that something’s wrong. Something happened. Because otherwise, you not only risk being accused of being a hypocrite but you also are selling a product (in this case, yourself) under false pretenses. Put it this way, let’s say I am a coach at a Christian academy and I have booked you to speak to my varsity basketball team about how Jesus has made you put away the pipe and hit homeruns and get metaphorical straight-A’s in the game of life. Then let’s say these pictures came out the next day. I would consider you, as a product, to be in violation of the Fair Trading Act which prohibits false or misleading representations about goods or services .

But somehow, this has become a hot button issue because the fact that he is a Christian and invokes his religion as part of his “ruin to redemption” package makes him above reproach. It is “picking on him” or “kicking him when he’s down” to point out that he has slipped up and seems to have, in collusion with his team, swept the incident under the rug. I guess I am confused about what sort of cloak of indomitability his religion affords him. We are not to question if his actions were hypocritical as that would be tantamount to religious persecution? So it’s fair game to demonize professional baseball players who collected fees for motivational speeches or profited off books they wrote about how hard work and grueling physical training lead them to gain 30 pounds of muscle mass in one off season once we find out that it was more HGH than cardio and weights that brought them those results? They are, and should be, fair game for ridicule and public flogging, right? Well, when one’s own personal human growth hormone is the healing power of Christ or a poster of Footprints or a huge cross tattoo across your back, you have to know that people are going to come down hard on you when you act in a very un-Christlike manner at a bar in Tempe, Arizona. That is unless Christ was way into body shots and fake doggy-style humping of co-eds.

So to all the commenters on Sportatorium who have taken time out of their busy schedule of predicting the demise of (X) (Y) or (Z) talk radio station long enough to cry Kulturkamp because someone dare take Josh Hamilton to task over his hypocrisy in light of his religious profiteering, don’t worry. This story’s news cycle is nearing completion and we can soon all go back to believing that Alex Rodriguez never knew that his cousin was not a trusted source of medical advice and that Tony Romo has learned his lesson and will stay away from celebrity tail this season.

1 comment:

MCBias said...

I actually thought the Deadspin pics did Josh a favor. Any time he's ever tempted to mess up again, he'll think about that and refuse. (For what little it's worth, I'm a Christian myself). Since it was in a public place, I thought it was ok. But I would have had some problems with it if it were taken, say, at his house.