Editor’s Commentary: Hypocrisy in Sports Shows No Bounds by Fans and Media

May 8, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) is congratulated by teammates in the ninth inning after hitting his fourth two-run home of the evening against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Rangers defeated the Orioles 10 - 3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

On the heels of Josh Hamilton’s four homerun night on Tuesday, the sports world is brought back into the realm of idolization and forgiveness for one of their once fallen heroes. Yet others are still demonized and thought to be evil men for their fall from grace in today’s sports world.

The bigger but confusing question remains, what is the moral or personal difference between the two types of sports figures?

Some may not be familiar with the rise, the fall, and the reemergence of Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton was the first overall pick of the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1999 MLB Draft out of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. From the onset of his professional career he was regarded as a blue chip can’t miss prospect and a five-tool player.

After two years in the Rays minor league system Hamilton’s career was derailed by drug and alcohol abuse stemming from a car accident he suffered with his mother and father; both fully recovered from the injuries.

By 2003 Hamilton’s drug and alcohol use became a problem on the field causing him to leave the Rays for personal reasons and to attend the first of many rehab sessions.

In 2004 Hamilton was suspended for failing a drug test. His failed subsequent drug tests and suspensions kept him out of baseball until the 2006 season.

Hamilton started his return to pro baseball in 2005 and by the end of the 2006 season he appeared in 15 minor league games. At the conclusion of the 2006 season the Rays did not protect Hamilton on their 40-man roster allowing the Chicago Cubs to draft him in the Rule 5 Draft but immediately traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000 (It’s the Cubs!).

By age 26 Hamilton became a major league rookie with the Reds during the 2007 season appearing in 90 games, hitting 19 home runs with a .292 batting average. Not bad for a rookie.

The Rangers traded for Hamilton in 2008 where he has been named a four-time American League All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP.

All great accomplishments on the field; a hero is born, forgiven, and now idolized.

Off the field Hamilton was clean from 2005-2009. He made the PR circuit telling his story of drug and alcohol abuse as a cautionary tale to others. He even wrote an autobiography titled “Beyond Belief” describing in detail his recovery from abusing substances.

Hamilton had paid his dues off the field and proved to be the baseball talent promised during his early days with the Rays on the field. He was given a pass by the media and fans for his past problems. The prodigal son returned to glory.

In January of 2009, Hamilton admitted to suffering a relapse at a bar in Tempe, Arizona involving alcohol. The news did not surface until August of that year. The details of how badly Hamilton had relapsed were not given. A public apology and admittance to his problem was issued, all was forgiven.

February 9, 2012, DeadSpin.com reported that Hamilton was allegedly drinking at a karaoke bar in Dallas, Texas. That moment reportedly turned into the former AL MVP having sex with one of the bar’s patrons in the men’s bathroom for others to see.

The father of three children and husband to the wife that has stuck by him throughout his hardships since 2002 repays his family, team, and fans by getting drunk and having sex with a stranger in the bathroom of Sherlock’s bar. Then he drove off afterwards with alcohol in his system on January 30 of this year.

February 24, 2012, Hamilton said, “The Rangers have done a lot for me, but I’ve got a question for ya’ll:  Have I done a lot for the Rangers?” In response to a question asked by NBC 5′s Newy Scruggs.

Hamilton went on to say, “I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I’m not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers. I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”

A sport’s personality’s perspective is clearly heard. Still another pass is given by the fans and national media but why, because of his talent? Or perhaps he is forgiven because he is an admitted addict?

No matter the reasons for Hamilton’s forgiveness by the media, baseball, and sports fans around the world, right or wrong, he is still regarded as a sports hero especially after Tuesday night’s performance against the Baltimore Orioles.

But why is Hamilton given status of a hero and not others?

Tuesday night Hamilton accomplished what only 15 players before him had ever done in Major League Baseball history; he hit four homeruns in a single game. He now leads the AL in batting average (.406), RBI (36) and homeruns (14). Injuries aside, Hamilton is on pace to hit over 60 homeruns and earn another AL MVP award. Life is good again for Hamilton.

Lost in the media coverage by “The World Wide Leader in Sports” are Hamilton’s past and more importantly, his recent past digressions. ESPN has placed him on a mantle while discrediting others for arguably fewer errors in judgment.

Every night ESPN dedicates time on Sports Center to promote Tiger Woods.

If  Woods sneezes during another player’s backswing we know about it. If  Tiger Woods cusses, throws a club, kisses a baby, or signs an autograph, whatever he does ESPN makes sure their viewing public knows about it.

May 8, 2012; Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA; Tiger Woods smiles in reaction to questions from the media during the practice round of the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-US PRESSWIRE

What ESPN and the public forget is his past. Not just the enormous infidelity scandal about one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game but also the scandal of a husband, at that time, and father of two with reportedly 12 or more women.

A sports fan that has not turned on their TV set, read a sports column, or heard water cooler talk since 2008 might think Tiger Woods is still the best player in the world based on ESPN’s coverage.

What ESPN wants the public to forget is not only Woods’ scandal but the fact that he has not won a major PGA title since winning the U.S. Open in 2007. Woods has not been relevant in the PGA since 2009. Yet every night viewers of ESPN are given Tiger Woods coverage.

Why is Woods still idolized by the media but other sports figures are looked down upon for their mistakes or scandals?

All Woods has to do is win one major anytime in the next ten years, which he still has the talent to accomplish, and one can assume that ESPN will feel justified in their overindulgence of his coverage.

One of the more confusing sport’s storylines in the last month centers on Bobby Petrino.

Proverbial blood still drips from the fangs and claws of the national media, especially ESPN and the Atlanta area media, and college football fans over former Arkansas Razorback head football coach Bobby Petrino’s now infamous actions.

Petrino has been a regular victim of ESPN disapproval since he left the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 for the Arkansas job. Petrino’s recent scandal leading to his dismissal at Arkansas only fueled that fire. Again, the question is why; because he left the Falcons with three games remaining in the season?

We are led to believe that his actions, in someway, broke an unwritten rule of sports ethics but people leave one job for another all the time in every manner of occupations.

Lost in the Petrino backlash is Falcons owner Arthur Blank. If Blank did not want Petrino to leave he should not have granted the interview with Arkansas. No interview, no Arkansas job, no problems for Blank and the Atlanta Falcons.

Blank was obviously overly arrogant regarding Petrino to think that he would not leave the Falcons for a job with the Razorbacks. In hindsight, he should have put stipulations on granting the interview along with the when and how’s of Petrino leaving the Falcons for the Razorbacks if allowed to do so or, again, do not grant the interview until after the season has been completed.

Blank did not do any of the above. Pass for Blank, public hatred for Petrino.

Also lost in the Petrino dialogue with the Falcons is the fact that starting quarterback Michael Vick was not on the Falcons roster entering the 2007 season.

At that time the Falcons job represented more than just a head coaching position in the NFL, Petrino was to have an opportunity to coach one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks to ever suit up in the NFL.

Vick, a.k.a. Ron Mexico, is another professional athlete seemingly now given a pass on past failed drug tests, illegal gambling, counts of criminal dog fighting, and felony animal abuse charges.

Vick was in federal custody before Petrino was able to coach him in an NFL game.

How much information Blank possibly knew about Michael Vick’s situation behind the scenes before Petrino was hired remains to be seen. If Blank knew of Vick’s dog fighting rings but did not disclose that information to Petrino that is not only deceitful but also misleading Petrino to take a job that is really a façade. Still, Petrino is regarded as the villain.

The bottom line reads that Petrino found a better job, regardless of one’s personal view. The Arkansas job was better suited personally for Petrino and he did what most people would do, he took the better job.

The court of public opinion will tell one that Petrino’s karma caught up with him on April 1, 2012.

That Sunday Petrino was in a motorcycle accident with his mistress, Jessica Dorrell. Dorrell was not only his mistress but a recent hire to the Razorback football staff pushed through by Petrino; the ultimate factor to Jeff Long’s, Arkansas Athletic Director, decision to fire the embattled coach.

April 3, 2012; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino speaks at a press conference at Razorback Stadium following a motorcycle accident he sustained on April 1. Mandatory Credit: Beth Hall-US PRESSWIRE

Two days after the accident Petrino lied at a press conference stating that he was alone at the time of the accident. By Thursday Petrino cleared the air apologizing for lying about Dorrell’s presence at the time of the accident.

For his actions of cheating on his wife, a personal problem, should Petrino not receive the same considerations given to the previously mentioned philanders in the sport’s world? Hamilton and Woods, among others, have been forgiven and are regularly idolized by millions nightly on Sports Center.

Why do some sports figures receive a pass while others pay the price? Likeability, charm, personal accomplishments, national recognition, age, addiction (sex or substance abuse); what are the determining factors that allow some to maintain their present lifestyle or job while others become outcasts for similar actions?

The fact that Petrino lied about his affair with Jessica Dorrell, his girlfriend and newly hired co-worker should be punished in some manner. Some within the Arkansas program and around the nation believed he should be fired for his actions as he ultimately was, right or wrong. Others deem the penalty to harsh for his poor decisions.

Petrino’s actions leading up to his motorcycle accident did not have a direct affect or outcome on the lives of the players he coached, put the program in jeopardy of NCAA sanctions, or break any state or federal laws as currently known. Regardless, Petrino will always be referred to as the former head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

What did the national media win by advocating for Petrino’s dismissal?

There were no winners when Jeff Long made the announcement of Petrino’s fate, only the possibility of loss for those in the sphere of that influential decision.

Like him or not Bobby Petrino is a great college football coach.

Because of a negative likeability factor over noncriminal actions the Arkansas football program along with their players will reap the loss of benefits provided by Petrino’s coaching ability that was in part by his actions but more so by the negative media storm from ESPN, the press, and national outcry from college football fans who know little about the program.

At the center of the damnation was ESPN. Not acting as journalist reporting the news but now judges of sports commentary and actions, ESPN was the ringleader of negative publicity for Petrino, right or wrong.

But what gives ESPN the right to pick and choose who is vilified and who is granted amnesty? Looking closer ESPN may be the biggest hypocrite of them all.

ESPN has shown the ability to forgive certain sport’s personalities they consider relevant if they are able to capitalize on that person’s fame for their gain despite said person hitting players, throwing temper tantrums, throwing a chair across the court during a time out of a college basketball game, allegedly shooting at others with a shotgun, allegedly repeatedly threatening violence on numerous occasions to others, attacking an assistant coach and, perhaps the most important grievance, leaving a program in the middle of the season… just like Petrino. This impressive list of horrific actions is not compiled by numerous persons just Bob Knight.

ESPN’s hypocrisy shows no bounds.  Former Indiana and Texas Tech men’s basketball coach, Bob Knight, has been an ESPN commentator since leaving the Red Raiders program (gasp) in the middle of the 2008 season.

Nov 15, 2011; New York, NY, USA; Former basketball coach Bob Knight announces the game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Knight even belittled ESPN reporter Jeremy Schapp during an interview two days after being fired as head men’s basketball coach by the Hoosiers administration in September of 2000.

Knight also lied about placing his hands around a player’s throat and only admitted to doing so after video tape surfaced of the altercation.

Perhaps that was a different time, almost 12 years ago, creating yet another magical loophole in the pass-fail system we have created for sport’s figures.

Fans are taught from an early age to love one team and hate everything associated with other teams. That is the nature of sports and it works well on the high school, college, and pro levels.

Rivalry games are among the best games to watch in all of sports. The passion, emotion, and animosity shown between rival teams and the fans make for entertaining matchups.

When real world issues arise, giving a pass for some sport’s figures while hating others for making similar or even lesser mistakes makes little sense. This action promotes hypocrisy and makes fools of us all.

Only because we like a person for their charm, physical abilities, potential marketing revenue capabilities, or the mascot emblazed across their shirt before being traded to another team does the sport’s world say it is okay to cheat, lie, and abuse others.

Cheer for Josh Hamilton and Tiger Woods if it makes you happy. They are amazingly talented individuals at their given craft.

Like Bob Knight for his basketball accomplishments, persona, and gruff personality. But understand others are condemned for their actions and treated like the villains the national media has made them out to be. Right or wrong, there really is a fine line between some of our sport’s heroes and some of our sport’s villains.

Topics: Bobby Knight, Bobby Petrino, ESPN, Fallen Sports Heroes, Hypocrisy In Sports, Josh Hamilton, MLB, Sports Center, Sports Heroes, Tiger Woods

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