You know what, I hope you read my new book, Out Of My League. Besides the obvious reasons that I want the book to do well, and that it’s my main source of revenue at this juncture, I want you to read it because I have something to say to you through it.
I did an interview today with a radio guy in Texas. I’ve done a lot a radio interviews now, some for books, others for baseball. I’ve done enough to know when a radio man has actually read my stuff, looked up my career, or is just having me on because I’m someone to fill otherwise dead air. I don’t complain, publicity is publicity and I’ll gladly take it. However, in this last interview I was asked about Josh Hamilton. Specifically, what I thought of him and his “being a distraction to his teammates.”
The way it was asked to me was in this joking, leading, players-being-players manner. I knew what he wanted me to say by the way he asked me and I’ll be dammed if I didn’t almost lock up.
I pride myself on being good on air, a great talker, articulate with something insightful always at the ready. I’ve been a fringe talent in pro-baseball all my life so I’ve made sure to sound smart when I got a mic in front of me because there was always the possibility it would become my true future in the sport. But this time I wanted to rant, be personal, damn all the polish to hell, cut out the articulate, assumptive, utterly shallow sound byte creation process and tell this guy to go *^$# himself.
Our culture has a problem with celebrity. Let us call it an addiction since we’re keen on throwing that kind of subject matter around. We tend to obsess over it and project onto it things that aren’t true. It is not a force field. It does not make us supermen to possess it. There is no transformation ceremony as we ascend to Godhood. Why do we constantly think there is? Why do we think people that have money, or fame, or success, should be better than us? Do we honestly believe they are?
Hamilton had a relapse and it’s a distraction? Christ, how do you think he feels? How do you think he feels waking up every day knowing that no matter how well he does on a playing field or how many fans buy his jersey his addiction does not care? It does not stop for money, or fame, or expectations of the sporting obsessed. It does not care that the Rangers almost won the series, and it certainly does not care that you might thinks it’s a distraction.
Life is full of distractions. The worst thing we can do is some how expect it not to be.
Look, my brother is a recovering alcoholic. He will be for the rest of his life. He beat the shit out me when he drank. I had to lie about it at a hospital to avoid having police reports filed. I had to lie about it when the cops showed up at my house and asked me why I was bleeding. I never understood why I couldn’t have him thrown in jail for what he’d done to me, but my family begged me not to, and for their sake, I didn’t.
He’s sober. But now I’m the one with problems. I get depressed. Anxious. I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s happening inside me sometimes and it scares the hell out me. Really, it’s terrifying to wake up and not understand how you can have so much success and just feel like there is nothing to live for.
And the worst part of it, the absolute worst part is when you know, because you’ve done well for yourself, you can’t talk to anyone about it because they’ll say to you, “You’re successful, what do you have to feel bad about? Ha, you wanna know real struggle, live my life sometime, pal. Drive a truck for a living. You play a game… you write books… You”— some other line of BS that only makes sense in a world that thinks all that matters star power and fat pay checks.
I’d give it all back to wake up and not feel like I was dying inside. I don’t feel it every day but the days I do, it’s terrible. To put on happy face because the world thinks I should have it and doesn’t understand how I could feel anything but.
I cant speak for Josh, but from what I know of the guy, I’m pretty confident there is a similar battle taking place in his mind. One of expectation, reality, and futility. When things that are supposed to feel great don’t, when the world becomes a place where simple things seem heavenly, and where canned answers are a way of life. Where he can talk about God’s providence one day and then shake his fist at him the next because of life is more full of irony than the analysts make it seem.
For the sake of professionalism, I kept my two sense to myself. I knew I had other ways to express those thought. Better ways. I wrote Out Of My League because I wanted to show people a side of the game that never gets shown. Sure, I want to entertain people, but I want them to know the truth. Not just be told it, but give a chance to feel it. There is some hard material in Out Of My League, hard for me to write and probably hard for you to read.
But that’s why you should read it. Because we’ve gotten soft, and expectant, and disappointed with our hero’s when they act like anything less than heroes. Read it because it shows how a person can collapse under the weight of a dream realized, when the strength we thought we were supposed to get along with the title isn’t really there. Read it because through it I think you’ll understand the human side of players better, and maybe even yourself.