Last year was a terrible time for pro sports, when names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones and Michael Vick became associated with words like compromise, cheating, hypocrisy and shame.
When role models fall in the field of sports, what do you tell the kids?
The story of Josh Hamilton, says a chorus of sports reporters. “Maybe you’ve heard it before,” wrote one. “Some stories are worth hearing again.”
Hamilton is the comeback story of the year, a baseball center fielder for the Texas Rangers who hit an amazing 28 home runs in the first round of the recent Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. But more amazing is the fact that Hamilton had previously been banned from baseball because he was addicted to crack cocaine.
For three years, Hamilton fed his habit and starved his career. Then one day he showed up at his grandmother’s door and experienced the kind of epiphany that fans love. “He saw something in her eyes that made him choose life over drugs and alcohol,” said a reporter. “Baseball is a game of second chances.” And eight attempts at rehab, in Hamilton’s case.
But it was Hamilton’s love of baseball that ultimately saved him, the crack of a bat stronger than crack cocaine. “Addiction is such a big thing,” Hamilton said. “Any time somebody comes up and tells me that my story has inspired them, it lets me know that’s what it’s about.”
On the night of the 28 homers, four teenagers chosen by a national children’s charity happily retrieved the balls that didn’t sail out of the park. “I think the highlight for everyone was cheering on Josh Hamilton,” said a representative of the charity, who noted that the kids were inspired by the power hitter because he overcame adversity.
Tell us what you think: Does every fallen sports hero deserve a second chance? Who does? Who doesn’t?