Because life is a series of edits

On Josh Hancock

In Places & Spaces, Sports on May 5, 2007 at 10:22 am

At the risk of perhaps stepping on a few St. Louis toes, I wanted to contribute a few thoughts to the ongoing discussion surrounding the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock last weekend. I would have done this earlier, but time did not allow. I also wanted to wait for the police report before throwing something out here not substantiated by the official investigation. On the backside of that investigation and report, my perspective has not changed.

Living in St. Louis, I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of sentiment from what is called (annoyingly so, in my opinion) “Cardinal Nation”. People have created makeshift memorials and left flowers outside of Busch Stadium; you would think everyone actually knew the guy and just had him over for dinner during the last homestand or something. Though I appreciate the show of sympathy/empathy for Hancock, his family, and the Cardinals organization, the depth of it seems questionable to me, and mostly a function of Hancock being semi-famous.

While I respect the Cardinals as being one of the better organizations in baseball, I have been intrigued by how much of a hero they seem to have made Hancock. Granted, he was on the team and part of the Cardinals “family” (one of the most overused and misdefined terms of the past week), but would the Cardinals have done half as much of the public memorializing that they have if Hancock had actually killed someone driving drunk a week ago? Would a victim’s family have stood for that? Would the public? Are you kidding me?

Listening to the first half of the press conference on the radio yesterday, I was once again reminded how hypocritical the media (as well as our country) is when it comes to issues of morality. Immediately following the Cardinals’ opening statement, multiple reporters in the room began asking about the team’s alcohol policy for the clubhouse and on the plane. The implication of the questions was clear: the Cardinals (having once been owned by Anheuser-Busch and still playing in Busch Stadium) must have contributed to Hancock’s death in some way, and surely you’re going to do something about that to protect “young” ballplayers like the 29-year-old Hancock (who also happened to be an adult). Since when does the media care about morality, legislated or otherwise?

Though the Cardinals did not allude then to any need to make changes in their current policy (Hancock, after all, was drinking at Shannon’s, not at Busch), in this morning’s Post-Dispatch, I read that the team caved to the pressure with a “CYA” move, pulling alcohol from the team’s clubhouse (though not from the visitor’s clubhouse), as well as choosing not to serve alcohol on return plane trips since players would be driving home from the airport. Are they going to stop handing out marijuana in the clubhouse and on the plane as well? Oh, wait a minute – Hancock (again, a 29-year-old adult) somehow got that all by himself.

I realize I may sound somewhat cynical, but I have yet to hear anybody raise these questions in the midst of the swirl of emotions surrounding Hancock’s death. I don’t mean any disrespect to Hancock or his family and I’m sorry he died, doing so with so little personal resolution in his areas of addiction. I’m sorry for the Cardinals and the hurt their personnel have experienced in the midst of what is (so far) their worst start as a team since 1990. I’m sorry for the fans – particularly the young ones, who are again having to understand that, as glorious a game as baseball is, those who play it can be not so much.

But most of all, I’m sorry we live in a fallen world that still believes the lie that morality covers a multitude of sins. Last I checked, that was still love’s job.

  1. Grow up people.

    Tony LaRussa is a steroid promoting two-faced hypocrite, drunkard and creep.

    MLB is a pharamceutical freak show featuring corked bats, pine tar, steroids, illegal gambling, philandering, ESPN theater of WWE scripted home runs and strikeouts AND lots of post game drunk driving, marijuana, Paxel and Prozac.

    The Cardinals are as corrupt as is George Mitchell, Disney Holdings-ESPN and MLB taken as a whole.

    Josh Hancock joined a long list of MLB drug addicted drunkards: Doc Gooden, Steve Howe, Daryl Strawberry, Dave Parker, Bobby Welch, Dennis Erkersley, Orlando Cepeda, Ken Caminitti, Jose Canseco, Don Drysdale, Vida Blue, et al…

    MLB is a federally protected criminal enterprise and is as glorious as a EPA Super Fund toxic waste dump.

    Don’t let the media fool you. MLB is a pharmaceutical and alcohol freak show.

    Just like college football and the NFL.

  2. Don’t mince words; tell us how you really feel. I officially hand over my “resident cynic” title…you’re in a league of your own.

  3. Only if cynic = wise man with 20/20 vision

    Disney’s magic kingdom sold out in favor of media mythology long ago. There are only six media corpoaration on the planet earth (they control all the satellites)

    Only six firms control all TV, radio, print and billboards. ESPN control MLB, college football, NFL. NBC owns the pharma Olympics.

    It is easy to market $100 BILLION in drunken steroid abusers who cheat on their wifes and naive fan base in favor of the marketers. Nike Icons can be invented in 30 minutes today.

    It is what it is. Substance over form should be your guide, not some TV fraud with a microphone.

    Let Tony LaRussa hide his crimes behind ARF (animal rescue foundation) He is still a drunk driver and steroid promoter creep.

    Josh Hancock was another chapter in the ESPN legacy of unholy addiction.

    BOYCOTT commercial TV sports

  4. you know what makes me sad? the day after his wreck there was a tow truck driver hit by a large truck on the side of 270. I don’t know much about the guy (because the news hasn’t had time for him) but i bet this loss is felt as deeply as this pitcher’s life. It is sad that our society somehow values the lives of some people more than the lives of others.

  5. MLB lives are worthless. From George Mitchell to Bud Selig to Donald Fehr to Senator John McCain to Tony LaRussa.

    These creeps wreck human lives for profit.

    BOYCOTT MLB and ESPN-Disney Holdings.

  6. I’m no Fox Mulder, but that’s quite a list of conspirators (for those following along, Mitchell is head of Disney; Selig is commissioner of MLB; Fehr is director of MLB’s player association; McCain is running for President (I’m not sure why he’s on this list); and LaRussa is manager of the Cardinals).

    I have to disagree with your evaluation of MLB lives being worthless (the doctrine of common grace would say otherwise), but help me understand your anger and what’s behind your comments here.

  7. Wow, winstolv, with your passion for this relatively minor issue, I can only imagine the passion, resolve, and dedication you must have in working toward real change in issues of real importance like institutional racism, disgraceful public education, international slavery, the international sex trade, the AIDS epidemic, drug addiction, children without parents, people alienated from their Creator by sin, etc.

    Dude, you said it in your first post, “Grow up.” Unless you are just involved in some sort of ironic melodrama that I don’t get, I’d suggest you channel your vehemence into a social problem that’s a little more significant.

    Nobody is asking you to watch baseball.

  8. Minor issues?

    No conspiracy necessary to breath or cheat with made-for-TV invented sport icons. Show business is 100% theater.

    $100 BILLION innvested in pharmaceutical TC sports each year? Look behind the stage.

    Dead and sick athletes?

    Drunken drivers?

    Drunken managers?

    Nike exemption for rapists, philanderers and Cancer chemo shills? (Kobe, Bonds, Jones, & Pharmstrong, LIVE WRONG)

    GROW UP. Steroids, amphetamines, and alcohol kill!

    TV sports are already dead.

  9. totally unrelated- I saw this article today and thought of you because I *think* I read this book on a recommendation from your blog once… (well, I know I read the book, just couldn’t remember if you recommended it! :)

  10. wow. i’m still trying to process all of this. i wasn’t expecting such anger in the midst of this. winstolv, it does sound like there’s more behind the anger and passion in your comments. i know that i can be a person who posts rather dramatic comments on blogs if it’s something i truly believe in and that’s really important, but what is it you’re believing in here?

    i got the point that you don’t like TV sports, but i strongly feel like that’s not enough to leave comments like that. i’m not bashing your opinions, because i believe everyone is entitled to have one, but i’m curious as to the reasoning?

    another thing to notice as well though: there are so many people out there today that have nothing to do with fame or tv sports or anything like that, yet they still drive drunk, or do drugs. this makes me curious about your motives even more, because there is a LOT of this out there, yet you make it sound like it’s just athletes who do this. any explanations?

  11. Hey Craig, I want to change my comment to what Shelby said. I think it’s what I would’ve said if I was in a better mood, but still maybe more gracious than I would’ve said it. Nice job, Shelby.

    What say you, winstolv?

  12. I think that winstolv has every right to say what he wants on the subject. I commend him for the sole fact that he has such a strong opinion on the subject. Whether I personally agree or not is another story.

    Apart from that, I think that because athletes and celebrities are in the position they are means they are called to a higher role of responsibility. Unfortunately, most chose to set an example other than what is morally correct. This is why I think that winstolv can say the things he did and why everybody makes a big deal about it.

    However I don’t see their lives as worthless. I think that MLB needs to make some serious changes in drug policy and Bud Selig is not strong enough to enact such a change.

  13. Tim, honest question: What is commendable about having a “strong opinion”?

  14. Well, I would rather someone have a strong opinion (positive or not) than be lukewarm. At least with an opinion you can relate to them on the subject and see where they come from.

  15. But Tim, remember what we discussed today about needing to present and figure out what is the truth. It shouldn’t matter how opinionated someone is or not, it’s about what’s the truth. I also prefer a strong opinion, but that’s not the point here.

  16. I was wondering why no one who responded above looked at the MLB thing with sympathy for the players? Having spoken with some former wives of Cardinals, they and their husbands are nothing short of highly paid slaves. Sort of like the marine motto, “If we’d wanted you to have a family, we would have issued you one!”

    In MLB, if your kids are hospitalized or critically ill, and there’s a game to be played….you’ll be playing the game. They might let you off to go to the funeral, but forget being allowed to go support your wife or child. True story (fortunately the kid didn’t die, but was seriously ill and had multiple siblings and the player was not allowed to go home).

    Although I am not a big fan of professional sports and I believe we place entirely too much emphasis on sports, I have to ask myself, how much pressure was someone as young as Josh under and who or what was helping him deal with that? I am thinking that in addition to trainers, ball teams need chaplains even more.

    Obviously they have the capacity to sin, but there is still the question in my mind, is the lifestyle such a high pressure one, that they easily stray to “cheap fixes” to handle their stress and turmoil? I doubt the money comes close to making up for the internal misery they experience in their field.

  17. You ever return to something and just wish you’d kept your mouth shut?
    A wise man once said – “where there are many words sin is not absent” Sometimes silence is a great idea.

  18. I agree with all your points except about fans showing their support. I live in St. Louis and didn’t contribute anything to the memorials but why not show support if you want to? He wasn’t even “semi-famous”. He was a mop up reliever, the lowest on the totem pole. 99.99999% of average fans couldn’t tell you his name and 95% of hardcore fans wouldn’t be able to either until this accident. He did make dumb decicions but what is wrong about showing some empathy? This is the second cardinals player to die in five years. I think it’s showing support for the other players if nothing else.

  19. I was born and raised in St Louis; yet, I have no loyalty to the Cardinals, any baseball team, or any sports team. Perhaps I’ve been in St Louis long enough to remember this one…

    If I remember correctly, Leonard Little ran a red light while drunk, crashed into and killed some poor woman, late at night in downtown St Louis on Chestnut St. The question of would’ve happened had the ball-player hit and killed someone seems less than hypothetical. In this case, justice was not served by any stretch of the imagination. He was ordered to community service. I was furious with the court that threw out the his later DUI charge on grounds of a technicality. It was second page news.

    The culture surrounding these players seems to foster excess. I, perhaps like you Craig, doubt that removing a beer or two from some events will be enough to counter it. These types of things “look good” and satisfy the media, but don’t really get at the root of the problem. Unfortunately, the ADD nature of the broader culture, renders the media ineffective as a mechanism of accountability. Rarely does it ask difficult questions of people or events. But then again, in most cases, it’s business is business. They need to sell papers and advertising. Big questions aren’t likely to be headlines.

    I believe that makes it ever more important that we are instruments of renewal in whatever context we are in. Ask hard questions. What does grace look like in a situation like this for all concerned? What does justice look like? What wisdom can we use to know which we need here? Even after the Fall, the Law of God is written on our hearts, we should all have some sense of what’s right.

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