It’s amazing to me how sports blogs continue to take one step forward then two steps back.
Residing in New England, the sports news this weekend was dominated by the struggles of the Red Sox and the PED swirl around David Ortiz. It wasn’t until Sunday morning that I saw the story of Josh Hamilton.
Many know the story of how Hamilton overcame drug and alcohol addiction during his early professional career to become a star on the Texas Rangers.
It was revealed this weekend by a prominent sports blog that Hamilton had a relapse in January while preparing for the upcoming season in Arizona. Along with the story was a series of photos taken of Hamilton at a bar fraternizing with young women.
The story was picked-up by many mainstream media outlets and Hamilton himself addressed the matter Saturday afternoon.
What Hamilton did was incredibly stupid. Testing the limits of his sobriety could have resulted in the end of his career and, dare I say, even his life. I have empathy for how Hamilton has been able to deal with his inner demons. I hope he truly is back on the wagon. He has already faced his team, and more importantly, his family on his lapse in judgment and the issue has been dealt with accordingly.
The story that Hamilton relapsed can be debated as being newsworthy. If it occurred during the regular season and Hamilton was forced to leave the team, a justification can be made to run the story.
Since the episode happened in the off season and it apparently did not impact his play on the field, or his relationship with his teammates, this episode may have been best kept in the realm of team scuttlebutt, not to be aired for public consumption. There are dozens of these instances each year where teammates do things that never make the news.
But what was accomplished by publishing these pictures? Those in support of the move will say that, to many in Texas, Hamilton is a role model, and that by exposing his failings it shows the human side of their hero. Are we still that naïve to believe that these sports figures don’t face the same problems we do as a nation?
Even if Hamilton were to suffer a relapse that forced him out of action during the season, I fail to see the journalistic benefit to publishing photos of him engaging in the behavior which led to his setback. The story of his regression is enough. Publishing such photos accomplishes nothing other than to potentially embarrass the subject.
Yes, Hamilton knew that photos were being taken and that they may some day surface in public. Again, another stupid move on his part. But the fact they exist does not mean we as journalists should not take a moment to think about how publishing the photos might impact all those involved. I have said before that everyone, celebrities and sports stars included, deserve some level of privacy protection.
So many sports blogs are doing great work in contributing to the conversation of the players and teams they support. The on-the-field discussions are more vibrant than ever. Then when a stunt like what was pulled this weekend occurs, we all get lumped together as being purveyors of tabloid journalism..
Yes, it’s unfair. But every time it happens I feel the need to share a hot dog and a beer with Buzz Bissinger.