Nearly seven years ago, as Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Josh Hamilton conquered New York City with a prodigious slugging display and brought focus to his recovery journey, I wrote in my blog, “I just hope that as the story continues to be told, more members of the media will hit one out of the park in their storytelling, rather than swing feebly at an opportunity to educate.”
Reporters and commentators are getting that chance this week, with word that baseball officials have met with Hamilton after his apparent admission that he has relapsed to drug and alcohol use. It has not been hard to see many signs of progress this week in the reporting of this story.
In many places I've looked, the words “illness” and “disease” are dominating the conversation—not a small accomplishment in a sports media world that, like many of us, is prone to tearing down the same icons it builds up. Panelists on the ESPN talkfest “Around the Horn” yesterday were among those suggesting that MLB officials should not be considering penalties against Hamilton, who received a lengthy suspension from the game for substance use in his minor-league days, if they consider addiction to be an illness. Panelist Bomani Jones added that he would hope all addicts, not just those with Hamilton's celebrity status, would start to be looked at differently.
Slowly but steadily, the language is changing.