If you could tear yourself away from Kurt Rambis’ steely glare or the Twins’ holdover starters being the moldy bread for what could have been a nice, fresh Carl Pavano sandwich over the weekend, you might have noticed that one of the biggest stories developed Saturday morning when Deadspin published photos of Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton partying with a few ladies early this year before the season started. Any question about whether the photos were doctored or whether the story was legit … well, those were squashed just a few hours later when Hamilton confirmed it was all true and that he had succumbed to a lapse in sobriety (and also made questionable moral decisions with the ladies in the pictures).
It was, of course, a big deal because much has been made about Hamilton’s battle with his demons. Substance abuse derailed the early part of his career, and his turnaround was among the feel-good stories of 2008. But there are bigger questions at play here. Among them:
*Is a lapse in sobriety news that should be published? Well, we could start from the standpoint of “how would you like it if every time you screwed up, it wound up in the newspaper?” But that’s not really a meaningful starting point. Of course none of us would like it. And, to be sure, few of us know what it’s like to have our ethical and decision-making slips made public. That said, Hamilton opened himself up to this, to a degree, by talking so candidly about his problems and his transformation. In that sense, he sounds like a politician stumping for family values who then gets caught with a prostitute — even though when confronted with the information, Hamilton was exceedingly contrite and human.
“Honestly, I hate that this happened,” he said. “But it is what it is. You deal with it. I realized that, obviously, I’m not perfect, in this ongoing struggle, battle, that is very real. A lot of people don’t understand how real it is.”
It was also reported that Hamilton told his family and team officials about the incident immediately after it happened. For some people, that would probably be enough of an admission — that it didn’t need to be made public because he wasn’t hiding it. But with Hamilton batting just .235 with 8 HRs this season, there is at least enough information to wonder if this was an isolated incident or, even if it wasn’t, if the fear of it happening again and/or being made public was enough to help derail Hamilton’s season. That makes it newsworthy.
It also represents another shift in Deadspin. Never mind the edgy headline — this was news, and the site knew it (as the roughly 600K page views of that initial post will indicate). Back in the day, such pictures might have been treated differently by the site. They’ll still pick their battles over there, but Deadspin now reads much more like an alternative sports news daily than a blog dedicated to amusing and offbeat stories. That’s not good or bad … just different.
*Does the public really want to know these things? Well, Josh Hamilton fans certainly didn’t want to know. The general public? Well, that will continue to be a fight to the finish. Some people want only the warm and fuzzy side of the story in all cases. Some are callous and cold-hearted to the point that they want to know the most sordid details in any situation. The rational middle can take these things on a case-by-case basis. There are surely things Twins fans wish they didn’t know about Kirby Puckett. And there are probably people locally whou would feel differently about this story if it was about Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau. Is it better to settle for a myth or attempt to understand the truth? That’s not for us to decide for everyone else, though we would imagine regardless that most people wanted Josh Hamilton to stay sober.
We welcome your thoughts in the comments.