Quick note: The initial draft of this post that was published was done so under the assumption that Hamilton drinking Monday night was fact, as it was reported here by the Dallas Morning News. A report this morning (see bottom of article) casts at least some doubt on the veracity of the claims that Hamilton was drinking. I’ve updated the post in certain areas to reflect this ambiguity, though the tone and ultimate message remains the same regardless.
You have probably heard by now that Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was spotted at a Dallas bar on Monday night, reportedly drinking alcohol.
I thought about it a lot last night and this morning, so here are a few scattered thoughts on the biggest non-Super Bowl story of the day.
Josh Hamilton’s Disappointing (Alleged) Relapse
So far, few details about the night have been made public, and I hope it stays that way (though it won’t). The news is that Josh Hamilton, a superstar athlete approaching a contract year, as well as a drug and alcohol addict, was allegedly again using one of the substances to which he has admitted to being powerlessly addicted.
My move to Dallas four years coincided with Hamilton’s move to the Metroplex, so I have been able to watch his resurgence from junkie to MVP up close. It has been thrilling, inspiring, and an altogether incredible story about the triumph of the human spirit in Hamilton, as well as and especially those close to him who have helped him get his life back on track.
And that’s part of what made the 2009 Deadspin story about Hamilton drunk at a bar, and last night’s story about Hamilton allegedly drinking at Sherlock’s, so disappointing.
This story that we’ve all come to root for, and appreciate, and perhaps even take for granted, now has another black mark on it. This tale of recovery is not complete, as some perhaps thought or at least wished it was.
But that’s the thing: it never is for an addict.
And in terms of disappointing angles to this story, the way that we feel about it as observers, as consumers of sports content, is irrelevant.
The true disappointment is that Hamilton, a man with a wife (who has stood by him indefatigably by all accounts) and three daughters, and so much seemingly to stay clean for, could not.
What Does The Future Hold For Josh Hamilton?
I don’t want to get into any undue speculation, so I won’t. I’ll just say what I think is a reasonable assumption for anyone to make based on the reported facts: this latest alleged relapse story, if true, hints at a much larger ongoing problem than many of us may have realized.
Anyone who has been afflicted by addiction or had family members afflicted by addiction, as I have, understands the unyielding presence of this evil demon. You never really “beat” it. You never really “conquer” it. You can simply subdue it one day at a time.
Hamilton has been able to do this, ostensibly, for a major part of the last half decade, but not without falling victim to the inevitable relapses that so many addicts cannot avoid.
You have probably heard that Hamilton recently lost his accountability partner Johnny Narron, who took a hitting coach job with the Brewers. His father-in-law reportedly was going to step in, but then backed out. What does that mean? What is the impact of these two recent, related stories? I have no idea. Again, all I can say is what I think is a reasonable assumption given the reports, if true, and the backstory: it hints at a larger ongoing problem than many may have wanted to believe.
On a side note: kudos to Hamilton’s teammate Ian Kinsler for rushing to Sherlock’s to persuade Hamilton to go home. Actually, scratch teammate. Kudos to Hamilton’s friend Kinsler for doing so. I don’t know how successful he was – again, details from the night are sketchy, as I hope they stay – but at least he went when called upon for a friend in need who apparently reached out to him. (Update: Some reports now indicate that Kinsler’s role may have been misreported in the original accounts of this story. See here.)
Who knows what is next for Josh Hamilton.
If this is true and an isolated incident, at least recently speaking, then perhaps it’s just an every-other-year relapse wakeup call to Hamilton that reminds him he is powerless against his demons in the long-run.
If this is true and not an isolated incident, as some completely unsubstantiated but nonetheless present grumblings of other incidents suggest, then maybe Hamilton does, in fact, have a much flimsier grasp on his recovery than everyone, including he, thought. And if that’s the case, talk of contracts and baseball need to pushed as far into the background as possible.
If the worst case scenario about this incident proves true, and I really hope it’s not, then Hamilton needs to focus on nothing but his recovery and health.
Forget the Rangers. Forget baseball. Forget fans. Forget all of that. Katie, Sierra, Michaela Grace, and Stella Faith need their husband and father to look his demons in the eye again and hit them head on again, with humility and unwavering focus.
Then hopefully a byproduct of that down the road is a return to great baseball.
Should Hamilton’s Relapse Have Been Reported?
As for the debate over whether this should have been reported, I’m torn.
If the reports are accurate, and I were in Hamilton’s inner circle or the Rangers, I’d have wanted it to stay private, of course. But once news organizations get wind of it, I think it’s fair game for them to report it (assuming they got the facts right).
Hamilton’s recovery has been such a big part of the Hamilton Narrative, and fighting relapses is part of almost every addict’s narrative. So if the good stories are going to be reported, aren’t the less good ones fair game?
Furthermore, Hamilton’s contract status (he’s a free agent after this season), has been a major topic down here in Dallas. Every time it comes up, so too do the questions about Hamilton’s physical and mental health, and whether the Rangers or any team should feel comfortable giving him anything more than a short-term deal. What happened Monday night, if true, ends that speculation.
If he was in fact drinking on Monday night, Hamilton will never get a long-term deal, if he ever would have anyway. His max contract from here on out will be two years, if that. What happened at Sherlock’s is the reason. That makes it news. That makes it worth reporting.
I will say that I think the media has struck the right chord with this story: reporting the facts as known but imbuing every article I’ve read with a sense of empathy for his problem and an underlying hope that Hamilton can get back on the path of recovery.
I’ve loved watching the Josh Hamilton story. Seeing him subdue his demons long enough to let his prodigious baseball talents shine through has been amazing to watch.
It is the humanity of Josh Hamilton that has made him such a three-dimensional sports figure that everyone can grasp onto, relate with in some way, and root for out of both the goodness of our hearts and the selfishness of insatiable desire for compelling sport entertainment. Josh Hamilton is nothing if not compelling.
The report about Hamilton’s relapse, if true, reminds us of the humanity that made him such a compelling figure in the first place.
To err is human; to err so egregiously, to allegedly relapse with so much on the line, is also human, as anyone who can empathize with the plight of the addict knows.
As a baseball fan, I sure hope what happened Monday doesn’t interfere with my ability to watch Josh Hamilton play baseball.
But as a human, I don’t care really about the baseball. I just want to see this husband, father, and beloved inspiration to so many who need it, lift himself up and away from the abyss through the sheer force of his will and faith – which is ultimately what it takes.
Get well Josh Hamilton. But get help, again.
Even if this is a recently isolated incident, nip it in the bud. Take nothing for granted. Respect the destructive power you know your demos have.
No one needs to or should stop rooting for Josh Hamilton; but none of us should enable him either, even from far.
Update: For what it’s worth, the following link was just passed along by Brian Cuban on Facebook. The title is “Josh Hamilton, Inside Scoop From 8 People” by Mike Dyce. I cannot at all vouch for the source, because I am not familiar with Mike Dyce, but I do tend to trust Cuban’s thoughts on matters such as these, so if it’s good enough for him to pass along, I will too.