Sports fans who tend to place athletes on a pedestal are periodically reminded that hitting a curve ball, making a three-point shot or tossing a perfect 60-yard TD pass have nothing to do with brain power.
Josh Hamilton proved that again Friday and although those who actually listened to him weren’t as offended as those who only read his comments, there is little doubt that the message could have been delivered more effectively.
When Hamilton entered a media tent for a Q&A with reporters, he brought a bible with him but did not bring any common sense. He spoke to the assembled media for 45 minutes, but all anyone remembered afterward was eight words:
“I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”
When an athlete says something like that, it opens the way for sports enthusiasts to do what we do best – be sanctimonious.
And it opens it for both extremes. Those in favor say Hamilton indeed does not owe the Rangers. They pay him to play baseball and that’s exactly what he has done. His relapses have never hurt his baseball. They’ve been in the offseason.
The flip side is the Rangers have gone to considerable travel expenses to provide Hamilton with an “accountability partner.” All of that is over and above Hamilton’s salary so he does owe the Rangers for their efforts to keep him sober.
The unfortunate result of Hamilton’s remarks is that he has presented himself as the classic stereotype of a big, dumb jock. And it didn’t have to be that way.
In sports, one of the huge assets is there is a large number of public relations professionals. Some no doubt are better than others and the Rangers have one of the better ones in John Blake, a 30-year veteran who has worked for three teams.
Had Hamilton consulted Blake, Blake would have likely tweaked very slightly what Hamilton said to make him sound much better. It would have been something like:
Listen, the Rangers have been good to me, but I also think I have done a lot for them. They pay my salary to play baseball and I have done that to the best of my ability. I am embarrassed and upset that I have had relapses, but they have hurt only me and not the Rangers. Both of them happened in the offseason. I haven’t missed a game because of a relapse. Had I been able to control myself, I probably would already have a contract extension, but I don’t because the Rangers have decided that right now, that’s not good business for them.
I will always appreciate the opportunity I got from the Rangers and the support they have given me. But when it is time to talk about a new contract, it’s going to be business for both sides. That’s baseball. They will not make an offer to me unless it’s good business for them. And if that ultimately is less than another team offers, then I will have to make a decision to make. But it comes down to business for both sides and has nothing to do with loyalty. Either way.
It would have been difficult to argue with such reasoning, but instead, Hamilton blew it. And there was no need to do that. If you’re not a jerk, it makes no sense to act and sound like one. But if you are a jerk, well then I guess you don’t owe anything to anybody.