Because we're all coastal elites here at Deadspin, we asked a Texas native to give us a sense of how the Josh Hamilton saga is unfolding in the Lone Star State. Piously, reports Jonanna Widner.
Praise be, it looks as if the spirit of the Lord done loosed the tongue of another member of the Josh Hamilton "support system" — none other than his wife, Katie, who is no doubt the most aggrieved party in all this mess.
Late on Sunday night, Katie Hamilton — or K-Ham, as I like to call her — took to the Dallas Morning News Rangers blog to respond to the hundreds of commenters who've been blessing us all with their opinions on the Hamilton matter.
Now, before we get into that, let's remember where we are here. Josh and Katie Hamilton's salvation story is taking place in North Texas, where for many folks Christianity and sports dovetail at an early age. Here, life shuttles continually between the Friday night lights and the Sunday morning pulpits, and the constant Bible-thumping begins to sound a little like the beat of the world's biggest drum.
I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth Jesusplex, and I can confirm that sports here — from Little League to the pros — are infused with the Good Word. When I was about 12, for instance, the third baseman for my fastpitch softball team got smacked in the noggin by a line drive — after she had crept even closer to the batter in case of a bunt. Her dad — our first-base coach — responded by laying hands on her and praying.
Then there are the Cowboys, once helmed by famous savior-lover Tom Landry, who once proclaimed on national TV, "You have to believe in Jesus Christ to play for the Dallas Cowboys." The edict may still hold-years later Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin sat at the feet of Dallas preacher T.D. Jakes, the devil-fighter whose "prosperity theology" posits bling as God's blessing. The new Cowboys Stadium is home to "I Am Second" acolytes like Jason Witten (who by the way, might have the most boring testimony on the face of the earth). If you need more evidence try going here, here and here, for starters.
Cowboys Stadium sits a stone's throw from Hamilton's domain, Rangers Ballpark. And both mega-stadiums are plopped in the middle of Arlington, home to clusters of mega-churches the size of shopping malls. The Hamiltons' saga is taking place in the midst of Jesusland, and because of that, it's playing out in a unique way.
Take Katie's appearance on the DMN web site. K-Ham's comments were mainly in response to postings from another commenter called "JJ," who questioned the wisdom of the Rangers possibly signing Hamilton to a fat long-term contract after his recent shenanigans. K-Ham's first response, while infused with Jesusness, proves pretty thoughtful, and indicates that she didn't exactly forgive Josh in a knee-jerky kind of way:
…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?...Again, he's not perfect- this was a night that he's certainly not proud of, but I am very proud of how he handled it. He was very honest with me and those involved and didn't try to hide anything or cover up his mistake…
In His Grip,
OK, that's a decent argument (although … "In His Grip"?!). But when JJ responds with an accurate portrayal of the duality of the situation — fans' response to Josh as a man versus their response to him as a player — K-Ham starts to lose her grip, as it were (all sic'd):
JJ, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. I have one question for you? JOsh drank ONE NIGHT! one night-and not during the season- ONE NIGHT IN 4 YEARS. How many other major league players or people on the earth for that matter, can you say that about. Probably not many. He drank ONE NIGHT IN FOUR YEARS and YES that is an absolute fact. So, if that one night is a make or break for you, then so be it.
And then a bit later:
One day we will leave baseball...it certainly doesn't last forever. However, GOD gave Josh that talent and it's FOR HIS GLORY. There are always "what ifs" in life. And yes, it was ONE NIGHT- you can choose to believe what you want. JOsh is in no way shape or form "chasing millions" that very thought or statement sickens my stomach. This job isn't about money, fame or "being a homerun king"...none of those things bring happiness and if that's what it was all about- neither Josh nor myself would be a part of it. WHat is IS about is glorifying God through a talent that HE gave Josh- and being obedient to the call in which He has placed on our lives. Which for right now.,,,IS BASEBALL.
Why is it the Christians always bust out with the all-caps? Maybe K-Ham is building a big wall of capital letters as a bulwark against what might be the truth, a truth none of us really wants to believe, but a truth that seems pretty apparent upon glancing at those bar photos: Josh Hamilton looks really happy in those pictures. He looks like a man whose life for the past five years has been, as he once put it, "Park. Home. Park. Home," a man who has been living day after day within arms' reach of his 60-something babysitter, and a man who, for a few hours, finally has some room to explode. Hamilton looks like a man unleashed.
I guess it probably does take a God with a strong grip to ward off such demons, and boy, does God have his fingers wrapped around Arlington. North Texas may in fact be the only place in the Major League universe that provides enough of a Christian bubble for the Hamiltons to keep believing. It plays here.
In the long run, despite the all-caps and the brimstone, this is probably a good thing. After all, Hamilton's religious conversion is the reason he's alive, and it's the reason he was able to man up and come clean to his wife and to the media about his giant slip-up. Say what you will about the relentless Bible-thumping, but if you listen to Hamilton's press conference on Saturday, you can't say he's not honest, or accountable, or remorseful, or embarrassed. North Texas will understand, which is probably why K-Ham felt comfortable making a cameo on the DMN's web site. (Imagine what would have happened if she had done likewise in, say, the New York Daily News' comments section.) This is a part of the country that knows sin and knows redemption and has seen plenty of its athletes walk the path between the former and the latter and back again. Josh Hamilton couldn't have picked a better place to redeem himself a second time.
The former Arts Editor of the Santa Fe Reporter and former Music Editor of the Dallas Observer, Jonanna Widner started her writing career covering the scintillating world of small-town Texas Little League and high school football. She has since moved on to write for several other outlets, including Bitch, Draft and Curve magazines. She also just finished the Dallas-Fort Worth handbook for Moon Publishing, so please buy it.