By Darius Williams
With the unmistakable sound of her fourth 16 oz. Busch Light beer can opening, the second gulp of room temperature gusto brought forth one of my grandmother’s many proclamations. This particular one being that the home my grandfather and her raised five children in, whom then in turn had seven grandchildren, reared at the two bedroom and one bath flat nestled a “rocks throw” away from Cedar Crest Golf Course in Oak Cliff, was a place we all could return to. My granny’s very words were,”If robbing Peter ain’t paying off Paul, you can always come back home”.
Author Desiree Rogers recently pinned a book entitled You Can Always Go Home that I have managed to read up to Chapter 4. The storyline of the book runs parallel with a couple of similar sports stories in the headlines currently: LeBron James leading the Cleveland Cavaliers into the Eastern Conference Finals and Josh Hamilton’s anticipated return to the Texas Rangers.
In 2010, LeBron James announced on national television that he was leaving home. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, which is only 40 miles south of the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team who drafted him right out of high school in 2003. A ” buddy agreement” with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to join forces in South Beach proved too enticing for the unrestricted free agent. Fans took to the streets in protest of “The Decision”, many even burning the #23 jersey of their hometown hero. People feeling like they were left standing at the alter, a once endeared love of James quickly turned to hate. It was seen as an act of betrayal and one that left a bad taste in the mouths of not only Cavalier fans, but society in general.
James went on to four NBA Finals appearances, two World Championships, and hoisted two league MVP trophies in his four year run with the Miami Heat. With an out-clause in his contract after his fourth year, maybe James had about all of the beautiful scenery of South Beach that he could take. Maybe he saw the dim future of a salary cap strapped team that was about to regress. Maybe it was just knowing that he left his “family” back in Cleveland. Whatever the case, James returned to Cleveland for the 2014-15 campaign and the fan base who once burned his jerseys just four years earlier welcomed him back home with open arms.
Josh Hamilton’s much maligned life and career appears to have come full circle. Drafted in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with the number one overall pick, a serious drug addiction derailed his career before it even started. After spending a few years away from the game, he returned to play for the Cincinnati Reds. A brief stint in that organization eventually led to a trade to the Texas Rangers in 2008. It was there that the organization established a support system. Basically they provided Hamilton with an extended family. He took the support, put it with his God-given talent and enjoyed a successful five year run. Hamilton had four All Star Game appearances and an American League MVP trophy to boot in 2010. A disastrous end to his 2012 season brought forth an amicable parting of ways between Hamilton and the Rangers. He signed a lucrative five year deal worth $125 million with the Los Angeles Angels. On his way out he took a verbal shot at the faithful fanbase of the Rangers as he questioned their baseball IQ.
Two lackluster, injury-plagued seasons with the Angels, along with an admitted relapse of cocaine use had the Angels’ brass looking for a place to trade him to. There was only one taker. The Texas Rangers. In essence, his baseball home. Hamilton is due to make his “debut” for the Rangers very soon. As he makes his way to the plate for his first at-bat inside of Globe Life Park in Arlington be very cognizant of the many “Welcome Home Josh” signs that will fill the stands. He has come back home to his family.
I never quite understood why my grandmother preferred her beer to be lukewarm before drinking. She never bothered to explain it either. I did however understand that one proclamation of hers. Throughout my 39 years on earth with her, myself, along with many other family members at some point in our adulthood, went back home. No explanation was needed. No time set to leave was ever negotiated. Never did it not feel like home. Somehow that 1220-square-foot flat was big enough for us all. My grandmother died Christmas Eve of 2011. I just wish that I could Go Back Home
just one more time like LeBron and Josh did.