Same Story, New Chapter

zack_greinke_si_cover.jpgLast year was the year of Josh Hamilton. By the time the All-Star game rolled around, you couldn’t turn on ESPN or hit the internet without running face-first into one of the ubiquitous pieces on Hamilton and his recovery from depression and drug addiction. In fact, I think that my colleague, Mr. Lung, may have actually written the best piece I read on the subject.

However, it seems that our esteemed sportswriters may have missed Jeff’s column because the same thing is happening again. This year’s poster-boy is Zack Greinke and even places like Deadspin have begun to focus on his issues along with those of guys like Dontrelle Willis and define them accordingly.

Now, I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, it is important to destigmatize issues like depression and drug abuse by talking about them. And when athletes come forward and admit even off-handedly that they, too, face these kinds of demons, it’s good for our awareness of the issue. But, when their whole story then becomes boiled down to a point where we see them only as the guy who fought depression or the guy who overcame his drug dependency, we eliminate all the gains and just create a new stigma. They are no longer people. Instead, they become the disease they defeated.

This issue is all the more important because it affects more than just athletes. Thousands of our friends and family members are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan having seen and experienced things that are truly beyond human comprehension. But when the inevitable depression and its symptoms like PTSD and drug abuse start to rear their heads, the stigma keeps them from being able to seek help. This isn’t a new problem. The same thing happened to veterans of Vietnam, the two world wars and as far back as Ajax in Greek mythology.

I admit that I don’t have an answer to this stigmatization problem. If Sophocles couldn’t answer it and the best minds in psychology today can’t figure it out, it’s probably a little out of my range as well. But, it might be nice if from time to time we stopped referring to Greinke’s “amazing comeback” or Hamilton’s “heart-rending journey” and just appreciated them for who they are. A couple of guys who have overcome the same kind of problems that a lot of us face day in and day out and also happen to be able to do amazing things with a baseball.

-A

11 Comments

Very true. I do agree that the fact that Greinke and Hamilton have amazing stories. But they are just like another every day average person who faces problems every day. It just so happens that they are professional baseball players that a lot of people look up to, including me.
-Dillon
http://dillonm.mlblogs.com

As a Rangers fan and godless heathen living in the heart of Jeebusland, what irritates the shiite out of me is all the godbots here in DFW giving all the credit for Josh’s recovery to their imaginary friend and his alleged offspring of questionable existence. None of them seem to give Josh any credit for overcoming the obstacles he slugged out of his system. And they certainly don’t see him as a ball player, just a posterboy for their insane delusion. (of course, Josh helps spread the Jeebus-Virus by literally becoming the poster boy for idiotic groups like IamSecond.com)
-Jonestein
http://jonestein.mlblogs.com/

I think that people are so hungry for a feel-good story these days, that the story itself becomes a totally new form of addiction for the general population. Guess we are all just a bunch of junkies, in one form or another.

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

I agree with Jenn – a feel good story gives us all something to believe in.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Hey guys. With the upcoming Tigers, Pirates Interleague series, we were wondering if you wanted to do some sort of “special piece” for both our sites. That’s all we’ve planned out so far, but shoot us a comment/tweet reply/email if you’re interested. Thanks.
http://theburghblues.mlblogs.com/

Dillon, I think you’re right on. I just wish that their stories were about more than what they’ve overcome. For instance, Michael J. Fox has transcended his Parkinson’s and become a very effective advocate for the disease. That’s what I’d like to see.
Jonestein, you’re preaching to the choir. My personal feeling is that if god is what got you through, that’s great and you should hold on to that. However, holding on to that does not mean throwing it in my face at every opportunity.
Jenn, well put. Very well put.
Burgh, I’m intrigued. Hit me back with your ideas. allen_krauseATyahoo.com.

-A

Good stuff, Allen (and Jeff). I think the worst part is that these stories sort of trivialize the whole recovery process and make it sound like it’s a lot easier than it actually is. They make it sound like these guys are both completely cured now and that they’ll never have to worry about recurring symptoms or staying sober ever again. In reality, Greinke and Hamilton will likely have to struggle with mental illness and drug addiction the rest of their lives. Maybe both will go on to have success and happiness, but it’s way too early to say these guys have fully recovered just yet.
-Erin
http://plunking-gomez.mlblogs.com

Not to trivialize anything that these athletes have overcome, but if we’re talking about triumphing over adversity, Jim Abbott pitched a no-hitter without a HAND. He didn’t want any special treatment or attention. Since his retirement, he’s gone on to become a motivational speaker, but when he was playing he wanted to be “just another athlete.” Something to be said for that too.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

This makes me think of the scene in Johnny Dangerously when the Joe Piscopo character parks in a handicapped space and his crony tells him he’s not handicapped. Piscopo replies with: “I AM handicapped. I’m psychotic.”
http://www.paullebowitz.com/

Man, I love when folks pull out Johnny Dangerously quotes…LOL.

Man, I love when folks pull out Johnny Dangerously quotes…LOL.

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