Josh Hamilton problems redux

Sitting here tonight watching Sports Center, I just heard about the photos published of Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton in some PG-13 drunken covorting with women not his wife. The photos, which were taken in January, are really not any more graphic than what you’d find on an 11th grader’s Facebook site. Still, coming from a born-again Christian who professes to have turned his life around from years of drug addiction through the power of Jesus Christ, it does create a bit of an image problem for the slugger.

Since the photos surfaced, Hamilton has come out to address the issue, saying it was a lapse in judgment, one that affected his marriage and children. Since the incident, which ocurred in an Arizona bar, Hamilton says he has been sober and forthright with his family and Rangers about his problem.

I was disappointed to hear about Josh’s relapse, but perhaps not as letdown as others. My issue with it is that Hamilton will be known now as a hypocrite for having put his faith at the forefront of his recovery and then slipping up.  After all, this was the guy who after winning the 2008 home run derby at Yankee Stadium thanked Christ for his performance. I feel for the guy because the Christian life is easier said than done and it’s easy to slip up.

For the last few seasons baseball has been a game of gotcha. From Rafael Palmiero’s positive steroids test just months after denying his use to congress, to Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez and now David Ortiz, the public has voiced disgust with players and though they fill up the seats, the sure are indignant about the misdeeds.

Personally, I hold nothing against this guy. It’s his business and between him and his God – who I suppose is the same God as mine. I guess what I wonder about is if it was necessary for Hamilton to be invoking Jesus last year as he made a spectacular comeback from the guy who smoked crack to an All-Star. I say that only because sometimes it seems that one’s relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean he or she won’t slip up. We do it on a daily basis, really. Rather than Jesus taking removing himself from the trailer parks where he was using, maybe Josh did it himself and Jesus is really what he should be striving for rather than giving the impression that he’s always there, automatically hiding him from the devil.

A while back, Hamilton wrote a very moving blog about his awakening from addiction. He was shoeless, walking along a deserted road in North Carolina, high on Klonopin. Hamilton said he felt he was stuck in a tug of war between good and evil. In light of the recent news that he’s relapsed – which most addicts do – his testimony to some may seem very worthless.

It all reminds me of a scene from the movie Walk The Line in which Johnny Cash is trying to convince his record label to let him record an album in front of prisoners, who made up a big portion of his fans.

One of the executives reminds him that his listeners are family folks, respectable, good Christians. These are the type of people who wouldn’t want him to perform for prisoners.

The singer responded that in that case, those types of listeners didn’t sound much like Christians to him.  To me, Josh Hamilton is not a “super Christian”. He’s just a dude. He’s a dude who lslipped up in his drinking and let his guard down. He’s not the victim of a Satanic plot and mercifully, he’s not playing it that way. Regardless, there are really few super Christians out there. If there were, maybe there wouldn’t be a point to Christianity. That said, like those who took the banned substance and even those who have only been pointedly accused of it, he’s got a credibility problem to deal with.

I’m sure that during this critical weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels, Hamilton would rather be focusing on other things than these photos, which show his reversal. Still, he’s gotta get up in the morning and get ready for the game. That’s the way life is an that’s really the only way we can handle our setbacks.


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