Last week, Josh Hamilton admitted to falling off the wagon. Pictures surfaced of him taking shots of alcohol in a bar. Unlike most of the steroid users, at least Hamilton was man enough to admit what he did and take full responsibility. For that, he deserves props. He did, however, crush several fans' images of him. Images of a man who overcame an addiction and battled back to be a "success story". Hamilton is not the first athlete that we have championed for overcoming an addiction. We applauded Darryl Strawberry for overcoming his addiction and getting back to the majors. We celebrated the likes of Dwight Gooden and Kerry Collins for beating their addictions. We tried, over and over to let Steve Howe back into our good graces, but he kept letting us down. One of the most celebrated Quarterbacks of all time, Brett Favre, overcame a prescription drug addiction (and mild alcoholism). All of these, except for Howe, are wonderful "success stories". And there are countless others that I did not mention. But here's my question, why do we celebrate 2nd chances when there are hundreds of athletes who do it right the first time?
Where is the love for Carlos Pena? For Amani Toomer? For Mike Green (and if you can even tell me who Mike Green is, I'll be ecstatic)? All three of these guys do is simply show up for work everyday. And they do their job as good as anybody at their position. Carlos Pena just hit his 30th Home run of the season. That marks three consecutive seasons of 30 or more home runs. Toomer is the all time leading receiver in New York Giants history. Mike Green just led all NHL Defensemen in scoring. Who is there to champion them? Where is the love for the guy who does it right without doing it wrong first?
I get the whole notion of second chances and forgiveness and how hard it can be to overcome something so serious as an addiction. We have become a society that is so PC and oversensitive, that we are not allowed to criticize without examining every possible factor first. We have become a society that, for some inane reason, values the rights of the accused more than the victims' rights. So, it stands to reason (sad as it is) that we have become too forgiving. Michael Vick is going to play football this season. Donte' Stallworth and Leonard Little will probably strap on the pads as well. The list of athletes who have broken the law but still get to play is endless. And giving them a second chance once their debt has been paid (cough, cough) is probably the right thing to do. But throwing them victory parties is a bit over the top, no?
I would rather throw a ticker tape parade for a team filled with Mike Lowells. Here is a guy who overcame testicular cancer. He is one of the best third basemen in baseball. He is one of the most clutch players in the game. And he plays the game the right way. Always has, always will. I think we need to start celebrating players who just do things right the first time, without meetings that end in anonymous. And if you truly feel your bleeding heart needing to cheer for an athlete who overcame something tragic to become a true success story, Lowell and John Kruk are two deserving candidates.