Josh Hamilton in the dugout at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
In simple terms, it’s hard to disagree with what Josh Hamilton said about North Texas being a football town and not a baseball town. He’s right about the sport’s popularity. It’s not even that it’s a football town, it’s a football state.
But, like most things, it’s more complicated than that. Hamilton’s statement made anyone who lives here, who is also a fan of baseball, or the Texas Rangers, or even a fan of Josh Hamilton, feel immediately unimportant, unappreciated and of no consequence.
No one disputes the popularity of football in Texas. But, for some among the 26 million or so who live here, plenty of whom aren’t fans of the Dallas Cowboys or football, Hamilton’s words carelessly marginalized those who have tirelessly stood in his corner and supported both he and his wife through his relapses, accountability partners, injuries, energy drinks and alleged dalliances (photographed and otherwise). Everybody was pulling for Josh … all the time, every time. Fans wanted Hamilton to succeed and they felt like they had a vested interest in his success as not only a player, but as a redeemed man.
Then comes the trade. Leaving for a bigger paycheck? Fine, most fans understand and don't resent players for that, even if its to a rival. Most fans get the economics of the game and most would agree they'd do the same if in such an enviable position. But, while the Rangers may not have brought Hamilton to the prom, they certainly can be credited with getting him out of the restroom and back on the dance floor with his feet once again firmly beneath him. Once again the belle of the ball and being courted, Hamilton decides to two-step with someone else. Fine, but Hamilton didn't have to shoot us a metaphorical bird while doing so by dissing the fanbase.
Rangers fans felt like they deserved better treatment, and they probably did.
DFW may not have the baseball history and decades of devotion as some other “baseball towns.” But, we did have the decades of frustration, pain and heartache that comes with pennant-less season after pennant-less season of losing (we know Red Sox and Cubs fans can relate). However, to the Rangers faithful and the 40,000+ who have regularly filled the ballpark over the past few seasons … DFW is very much a baseball town, even if it's one in it's infancy.
Rangers loyalists simply didn't need Hamilton tromping on their fandom since he is, undeniably, as responsible as any other Texas player for the following the team have developed.
What Hamilton should have done was take the high road, say he enjoyed his years here, enjoyed his relationship with the fans and take some responsibility for building a larger fanbase for baseball in North Texas. If he’d done that, he’d be received more like Mike Modano when he returned playing for the Red Wings and less like Alex Rodriguez when he returned in Yankees pinstripes.