I was surprised we didn’t see this within a couple of days of the Josh Hamilton story breaking, but I’m glad it’s here all the same. Not because I think it’s worth a damn — it’s not! — but because no story about a scandal involving an athlete feels complete without it.
Take it away Mac Engel who, after noting that Josh Hamilton isn’t having effigies of him burned in the streets says …:
Now the tricky part—would you feel the same way if Josh Hamilton was not a white dude?
Would Josh Hamilton have been asked, let alone agreed, to make his first TV interview since his now famous relapse on Glenn Beck TV—as he did on Wednesday afternoon—if he weren’t white?
The race card may be an easy out for a column, but here we sit in the middle of Black History Month and there is no better time to ask an uncomfortable question: Does Josh Hamilton inspire, generate sympathy and are people largely accepting and supportive simply because of the color of his skin, and to heck with the content of his character?
It’s a tired argument because it assumes all manner of things about the nature of punishment. There’s actual punishment, of which he should receive none because, no matter what his past is, it’s not illegal for him to have had some beers.
There’s also public opinion punishment, which I don’t think anyone can have a firm grasp on, in terms of either its nature among those who hold it or the person whose opinion is being opined upon. At least not now. And of course there are the feelings of the person in question. Maybe Hamilton is going through hell and we just don’t know about it nor can we, be he black or white.
But I do know this much: Josh Hamilton’s manager, Ron Washington — who, as you probably know, is black — tested positive for cocaine a couple of years ago. And he kept his job. And got no small amount of support from everyone with the Rangers and in the baseball community at large. He then won awards, pennants and got a contract extension.
Why? Because (a) he’s a good man who people like; (b) he was contrite and vowed to do better in the future; and (c) he did, in fact, do better and validated everyone who cut him some slack.
So, call me crazy, but yes, I think that Josh Hamilton — who is also someone who is well-liked and has shown contrition and has promised to do better — would likely get the same shake if he were black.