If anyone is really looking for a lesson learned about this weekend's revelation that Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton fell off the wagon during the offseason, it is that life is nothing like a movie. It seems silly to even have to say that, but, all too often, we seem to think that the difficulties of life can be wrapped up with a little bow.
Saturday destroyed that illusion when pictures of Hamilton cavorting with women who weren't his wife and whipped cream at a bar in Tempe surfaced on Deadspin. According to the accompanying story, Hamilton was drinking as well, a sudden and surprising revelation after four years of very public sobriety. The outfielder confirmed that he had fallen off the wagon on that night in January during an apologetic press conference before that day's game with the Angels.
If life were like a movie, the story of his battle with drugs and alcohol would have faded to black after his spectacular performance in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008 and left everyone feeling good as they shuffled out of the theatre. Life's messy, though, especially for someone recovering from addiction, and Hamilton's night of excess should serve only as a reminder of just how messy.
Unfortunately a lot of people seem to have learned one of two other lessons. Maybe it's because he was so public with his story or so adamant about tying his recovery to his religious beliefs, but a quick scan of the comments on the Dallas Morning News' transcription of his press conference shows that plenty of people who don't know Hamilton are taking this awfully personally.
The best response to that is in the same section of comments, and comes from someone who does have a personal stake in Hamilton's recovery. His wife, Katie, posted her thoughts.
"To all those who "just can't forgive" Josh for this one night- I have a question for you: Why is it that I (his wife- the one whom he hurt the most, by far through this) can forgive him, but you can't?"
A very good question. Go ahead and wonder if this means the Rangers should think twice about signing him to a long-term deal or take it as a chance to reevaluate whether or not someone should be celebrated for being a recovering addict in the first place, but it's hard to see where Hamilton is deserving of a great deal of scorn.
The same goes for anyone who finds some glee in calling Hamilton a hypocrite or sanctimonious because he preached one lifestyle while living another. He should have come forward sooner, especially since he hasn't shied away from speaking publicly about his recovery since the January night in question, but, again, that doesn't make him worthy of anyone's anger.
This isn't a "gotcha" story and wasn't presented in a gleeful way to make Hamilton look bad. Hamilton's emergence from years of substance abuse was a story that was widely reported and used as the basis for an autobiographical book. The idea that only the positive part of the tale is fit for public consumption is wrong-headed, especially when there is a great deal of value in telling this part of it as well. Hamilton's relapse illustrates how recovery from addiction is a long, difficult road, and that it isn't any easier just because you're a famous, talented athlete.
And, and the end of the day, that's the real takeaway from all of this.