MLB Player Josh Hamilton’s Relapse Isn’t His Fault

Josh HamiltonThe sports world should be one that understands addiction -- it's claimed so many of its biggest stars. And yet news that Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has relapsed has been greeted with such contempt that it seems society's general lack of respect for just how strong addiction can be is alive and well in sports too.

The 30-year-old Hamilton was once suspended from playing the game he loves for his drug-and-alcohol addiction. For three years, Major League Baseball did not allow him to play. And yet, he persevered. He came back and triumphed, winning the American League's MVP award in 2010. But if anyone doesn't think he worried that this day was coming, they don't know addiction.


People fall off the wagon. It happens. In fact, Hamilton has done it twice. Three years ago at this time, he was caught getting plastered at a bar in Arizona, and then this week he showed up at a bar in Texas.

But the sports reporters blasting Hamilton for failing to keep his faltering steps hidden in the shadows instead of out at a public bar are missing the point. It's not that Josh Hamilton "doesn't care" whether the Rangers will find out that their star outfielder is back on the booze. It's that he can't help it.

The body that serves him so well on the field, that attracted Major League baseball scouts in the first place, betrays him. How ironic that the sports world that values a person for their body so much is so quick to throw a player under the bus when a piece of that body malfunctions. It's one of the few places in America where it is still acceptable to tell someone that they're no longer necessary because of an infirmity.

And while I understand that in many senses -- you can't pay a guy to catch when his elbow no longer allows him to throw a man out, for example -- that doesn't mean we shouldn't be giving guys like Hamilton a little more respect for the battles they are fighting against nature.

Josh Hamilton isn't trying to throw away a baseball career because he's some cocky jerk. His brain overreacts to the way drugs and alcohol affect its pleasure centers. His body has betrayed him. His fans and colleagues shouldn't.

Have you or someone you know struggled with addiction?


Image via Rubenstein/Flickr

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