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The stories I read about CC Sabathia began by reporting that the veteran pitcher had walked into Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s office on Sunday and made “a stunning admission. He has an alcohol problem.”
Joe Girardi said he was shocked. But it’s not clear whether he was shocked to learn that this particular player had an alcohol problem, or shocked that the player had said, “I need help.”
Lots of addicts never reach the point where they can say, “I need help.” Saying it requires courage, and often it’s courage born of desperation.
If it’s the latter, no surprise. Lots of addicts never reach the point where they can say, “I need help.” Saying it requires courage, and often it’s courage born of desperation.
CC Sabathia has been quoted as saying he wants to become the kind of person he can be proud of. May the decision he made on Sunday be the first step in the ongoing process by which he becomes that person. Recovery will work if he works it, as the saying goes, and he’ll have lots and lots of company in the recovery community beyond baseball: as much as he could ever want and need.
His teammates have indicated that he’ll have their support, as well, and that is gratifying, though support within the industry in which Sabathia works won’t come easy.
Baseball and alcohol have a long and lucrative association. Beer sponsors broadcasts. One of the jingles I remember from a childhood spent listening to ballgames in New Jersey began “Baseball and Ballantine's.” In Boston it was, “Hi — neighbor! Have a ‘gansett.”
Teams have been owned by breweries and players have been rewarded with beer distributorships. Drinking in order to wind down after night games is part of the game’s culture.
Josh Hamilton, another major leaguer who has struggled to overcome addiction, has sometimes been mocked by fans. That impulse was also evident under the online Wall Street Journal account of Sabathia’s decision. Some comments were supportive. Here are a couple of the others: “A weak, pathetic loser” and “Mantle would have stuck his head in an ice bucket and pounded some Budweiser through the playoffs.”
I wonder if that last comment came from somebody who didn’t know that Mickey Mantle destroyed his own liver and died months after receiving somebody else’s? Somebody who didn’t hear Mantle say to his fans at the end of his life: “Don’t be like me.”
CC Sabathia has made that choice. May serenity, strength, and wisdom follow.
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