Okay Ranger fans Josh has come and gone for the first time this season. And the boo birds were out in full force. Even those folks who didn’t know that they were boo birds joined in the ruckus. At last by golly Texas Ranger fans finally got to show #32 that they are not to be messed with.
As we all know this began last fall when it was announced that Hamilton had signed a mega contract with the rival Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels. That was the first thing that didn’t set well with Ranger nation. And then came the interview that would have lasting effects. He had the audacity to say that Arlington was not a baseball town and/or that Texas was not a baseball state!
My question is: why all the fuss over that statement? After all Texas has proclaimed itself as the greatest football state in the nation. Just look at high school football and tell me what other state in the union has the quality or quantity of talent that Texas has. That is proven year after year when coaches outside the state come parading into Texas seeking the signatures, on those letters of intent, of some of the most sought after names in all of high school football. It is also very common to see two or three Texas high schools mentioned in the mythical top ten in the nation. And those Parade All-American teams have more than a few names from the Lone Star State.
And how about college football? Rarely do you see a final top ten list of all Division I collegiate programs without at least one team from Texas being there. In the lower divisions of NCAA football and other governing bodies where playoffs are held, Texas teams seemingly are always in the thick of any hunt for a national championship. Throw in some of the best Junior College play in the nation and you have yet another reason to crown Texas as the king of football.
Of course we will not forget the pros. Remember the Cowboys play right next door to where Josh played major league baseball. Maybe the lathering up and slobbering over the Dallas Cowboys in mid-July is what made him realize that Texas is indeed a football state. We all know that as soon as the Cowboys hit training camp that baseball takes a back seat. Sure fans continue to attend Ranger games in droves but they cannot help but be completely enamored with the beginning of another Cowboy season. And to ratchet up the intensity don’t forget the “Boys of Fall” who play down in Houston. All the fans who are not in love with the Boys’ are just as crazy over the Texans.
Just maybe Hamilton was correct in what he was proclaiming. We don’t have to like it but when we step back and think about it, maybe he was on to something. Here is the deal about Texans: we are a sport state. We love our sports no matter the season. Most of us don’t like to be accused of being second rate at anything when it comes to supporting our sports teams no matter the level of competition. But when it comes to being the king, I readily agree with Josh that we are a football state.
As for the booing, I have mixed emotions about that. Would I have booed Josh Hamilton had I been in attendance? No, because in my lifetime of watching sports I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of negotiations, free agency, and the absence of loyalty on the part organizations or athletes. I have come to accept the fact that professional sports are a business first and a team concept second.
Josh probably was reeling a little bit from the fact that the Rangers had not hidden the fact that they would be more than willing to part company with #32 and that what he had done for the organization in his five years there seemed more than unappreciated. As we have seen during those five years, he is a fierce competitor, so for him to sling the first mud was not surprising to me. I think he knew the boos would come upon his return.
So what about booing professionals and maybe even collegians? There is a saying in New York Yankee lore that you have not arrived until you have been booed in the Bronx. Those people are spoiled by those 27 World Championships and something like 40 American League pennants. But they also have high expectations for their players. After all those guys come in there and more than gladly take those huge paychecks. The fans know it, they know the history of the organization, and they dadgummed well expect another banner flying above Yankee Stadium. That is just their way of sending their message of expectations and accountability. I have no problem with that.
The same thing happens in Cowboy stadium. Even though it seems so long ago there was a time that anything less than another trip to the playoffs was an absolute disappointment in Dallas. And when any edition of the Cowboys failed there was no room in the hearts of the Silver and Blue loyalists for sympathy. Boos was the order of the day when expectations fell short.
Maybe at the end of last year when Josh was booed for his sloppy play and poor performance at the plate in yet another playoff run it meant that big time baseball had finally arrived in Arlington. The hungry fans had now come to hold the Rangers and their heroes to the highest standards. When Hamilton did not deliver, he was told about it in the only way the average fan knows: booing. Once again I have no problem with that.
Tony Romo just signed himself one of those mega contracts that will keep him financially sound for his entire lifetime if he is smart enough to handle that much money. He is one of those who has been the recipient of more than his fair share of boos and rightfully so since he has not delivered in a “must win” yet. And don’t think that the most loyal of Cowboy fans doesn’t have those numbers on his paycheck plastered somewhere in their brain. And if the performance doesn’t match the numbers, I am more than certain that the boos will reign over #9 like never before.
In regard to the big stage, we love to love the celebs and we love to hate the celebs. That is okay because those who choose to take their talents, or their status into the spotlight need to understand what is in store. The most notable areas of who this applies to are professional athletes, national politicians, and professional actors or entertainers. The standards are so high for these folks that they are almost unattainable. Critics just have one field day after another by blasting away at those they despise and on many days, those they love.
But here is what is off limits: the families of those in the spotlight. Sure the families get to enjoy the fortune and fame but they are not the ones who are to be judged by the fans or the critics. Messing with the children of the stars is for sure out of bounds and insults, slurs, or character defamation is completely unacceptable.
When Josh Hamilton’s family was subjected to that this week end in Arlington it was not a proud day for any sports fan in Texas. I don’t know if the depth or seriousness of the disrespect has been confirmed but any at all was too much. Hopefully that part of Hamilton’s return to Texas in another uniform is over and done with.
Let me finish up by saying to all Ranger fans about Josh Hamilton. Remember how proud we all were about his unashamed admittance of his faith. Remember the “I Am Second” clips. Remember his book Beyond Belief and his inspiring story of how hard he had to fight to overcome his own transgressions. If we will just remember that and hope that Josh can still be the same honest and humble player that we knew in Texas any more booing from us Texans will not be necessary. I think there may be some of that in his future from the Californians.
One last note to Mr. Hamilton: I really don’t think that you are in that much of a baseball town now either. If you look at all those NBA Championship Banners hanging in the rafters at the Staples Center, or look above the court on the campus of UCLA and see all those National Championship Banners won by John Wooden and boys, and then go over to Southern Cal and look in their trophy case at all their National Championship hardware in football along with their Heisman pictures, then maybe you will see that baseball is not really the king there either.