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Writing Sample Angels And Demons In The Outfield


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Josh Hamilton’s book, “Beyond Belief” is criticized in order to gain an understanding of the techniques writers use in similar testimonies so that the reader will be able to have a greater understanding of the personal experience of the writer. Fantasy-theme criticism is used in order to recognize the themes and rhetorical vision Hamilton creates throughout his book. Not only are those who are already familiar with the competitiveness and pressures in sports able to relate to his story, but by using certain techniques within the book, his story is able to relate to an even broader audience. The focus of the book at first glance may be a baseball player and his story, but by picking out the themes and rhetorical vision, we are able to see that the focus is much more broad than that and can allow people to relate on different levels, such as having dealt with drugs themselves, knowing someone who has dealt with any type of addiction, or who has felt the pressures from other situations besides sports and felt they have not met their goals.

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Writing Sample Angels And Demons In The Outfield

  1. 1. Valero 1 Angels and Demons in the Outfield: Understanding the Struggles and Pressures in the Sports World through Fantasy-Theme Criticism Abstract: Josh Hamilton’s book, “Beyond Belief” is criticized in order to gain an understanding of the techniques writers use in similar testimonies so that the reader will be able to have a greater understanding of the personal experience of the writer. Fantasy-theme criticism is used in order to recognize the themes and rhetorical vision Hamilton creates throughout his book. Not only are those who are already familiar with the competitiveness and pressures in sports able to relate to his story, but by using certain techniques within the book, his story is able to relate to an even broader audience. The focus of the book at first glance may be a baseball player and his story, but by picking out the themes and rhetorical vision, we are able to see that the focus is much more broad than that and can allow people to relate on different levels, such as having dealt with drugs themselves, knowing someone who has dealt with any type of addiction, or who has felt the pressures from other situations besides sports and felt they have not met their goals.
  2. 2. Valero 2 Professional athletes go through experiences that many will never be able to understand. Some athletes endure struggles harsh enough to force them off the track they set for themselves and will have a hard time connecting with those around who are unaware of the pressures and competitiveness in the sports industry. Josh Hamilton, outfielder for the Texas Rangers, overcame an obstacle that lead him to believe he would never return as a baseball player just a few years ago, and has put his story and testimony down in words in order to try to communicate to readers his experience. Since his readers are not limited to being professional athletes who have undergone an experience like his, Hamilton creates a rhetorical vision of the competitiveness and pressures of sports and what could happen as a result and uses symbolic convergence in order to relate his personal journey and how he got through his fallout to readers who may be able to relate to his story from various aspects. Studies have been conducted emphasizing the pressures and competitiveness in sports, which could lead to some of the struggles that athletes like Hamilton experienced. The pressures are often from coaches, fans, and fellow teammates and have been discussed as external pressures, but internal pressures too, such as the ability to fulfill personal goals affect the sports figure. Mark Anshel and W. Larry Gregory emphasize the pressure as a result of extremely high expectations of players’ coaches, fans, and fellow teammates (3). Although this external pressure is important to understand, in Hamilton’s story, the emphasis seems to be on the internal pressure mentioned in the article, especially the ability to fulfill personal goals. This will be used to better to relate to more readers who have goals for themselves that they are unable to meet, not necessarily from a professional baseball team like Hamilton, but from other pressures from different aspects in their lives.
  3. 3. Valero 3 Roy Baumeister and Carolin J. Showers also describe the pressures from one’s personal goals, specifically stating that it is because the individual knows the expectations and goals from others that the feel they create their own expectations for themselves (362). An interesting point they state is that a player’s performance is based on the idea that they may not have a second chance; in the case of Hamilton, once he was injured he was not sure he was going to be given another chance to play baseball on a professional level, so this led to him giving up on himself and realizing he would not be able to meet the expectations he had for himself. G.P. Mohrmann also touches on the idea that individual dreams are important in one’s action; if one’s dreams are not being fulfilled, it may result in various ways. The dreams may be altered in order for them to be met this way, or negative actions may result from the lack of fulfillment of the already stated dreams of the past (3). To better understand how the pressures, competitiveness and lack of fulfillment of goals work as major ideas of “Beyond Belief,” it is important to understand the background of Josh Hamilton, whose story begins like that of many baseball players. He played very well as a young boy and throughout high school became exceptional enough to gain the interest of scouts and those affiliated with Major and Minor League baseball. In the 1999 baseball draft, he was the first player chosen, known for his speech, fielding talent, and home runs. His first year or two continued on well as he played in the Minor Leagues, but while dealing with an injury that resulted in an inability to play consistently, his confidence in himself continued to decrease, eventually leading him to his major moments of weakness. This goes along with the ideas that once the pressures are put on an athlete or anyone in a competitive situation, and the expectations are not met, various negative results may occur.
  4. 4. Valero 4 He said it was possible his downhill journey began with the decision to get a tattoo, making the image people had of him as a “good boy” who always told his parents everything disappear. From there, he used the tattoo parlor as an escape from the baseball world he was so used to being a part of since he felt useless not being able to play ball. Many tattoos later, he made the decision to try cocaine with a particular group of guys from the parlor, and his downhill journey continued at a pace faster than he could imagine. He describes this experience in detail in several stages, and by using fantasy-theme criticism the focus will be on how he connected this experience with the audience during his before, during, and after stages of his drug addiction. The method of rhetorical criticism that is used to analyze “Beyond Belief” is fantasy- theme criticism, created by Ernest G. Bormann. This particular method, designed to provide insights into the shared worldview of groups, is relevant to the artifact especially because it is a testimony of someone who is trying to share his story with his readers (Foss 97). Studies were also conducted concerning communication in small groups and discovered the process of group fantasizing as a way of communication (97). From these findings, symbolic convergence theory was made along with the method of fantasy-theme criticism. One main component of the theory is fantasizing or dramatizing, which occurs when individuals find some aspect of a “message that catches and focuses their attention until they imaginatively participate in images and actions stimulated by the message,” which allows critics to use the concept in large contexts (97). It is also necessary to understand the two assumptions of symbolic convergence theory—communication creates reality and that symbols not only create reality for individuals but that individuals’ meanings for symbols can converge to create a shared reality or community consciousness (97). This comes to the conclusion that convergence
  5. 5. Valero 5 theory refers “to the way two or more private symbolic worlds incline toward each other, come more closely together, or even overlap during certain processes of communication” (97). Frequent mentions of a theme, a narrative, or an analogy are evidence of symbolic convergence. The two basic units of analysis for symbolic convergence theory and fantasy-theme criticism are the fantasy theme and the rhetorical vision. The fantasy theme is the means through which the interpretation is accomplished in communication (Foss 98). A fantasy theme could be a word, phrase, or statement that interprets events in the past, envisions events in the future, or depicts current events that are removed in time and/or space from the actual activities of a group. The rhetorical vision is a “unified putting together of the various shared fantasies” (Foss 100). Within the rhetorical vision there are fantasy themes relating to settings, characters, and actions that together form a symbolic drama or coherent interpretation of reality (100). By using fantasy-theme criticism to analyze Josh Hamilton’s book, “Beyond Belief,” we are able to view his overall message and desire to communicate this message by breaking down the book into several rhetorical visions as a result of different fantasy themes included throughout his story. The first step when analyzing the book is to recognize the some of the fantasy themes in order to understand how the rhetorical vision has come about. The different themes to code are setting, character, and action themes. The setting in “Beyond Belief” consists of several throughout the story and varies from different perspectives. One is the overall idea of the baseball setting because the majority of the book takes place around baseball activities, teams, players, and fans. This is an important setting because it relates to the overall idea that he experienced this in a sports atmosphere and allows the audience to better relate to his story, especially if they are involved in the same sort of environment as well. This goes along with the
  6. 6. Valero 6 idea within fantasy-theme criticism that if one idea is brought up by a particular person or rhetor, those who are involved or have experienced something similar will automatically have grown interest in the topic and be able to contribute to what is being discussed. Along with the idea that the book has an ability to interest even those who are not included in the sports atmosphere is the setting theme of the tattoo parlor where he turned to numerous times when he was using it as an escape from the baseball world. This happens during the middle part of the story and seems to be directly related to the beginning of Hamilton’s experimenting and addiction to drugs. With this setting theme, people who have gone through struggles with drugs or any sort of addiction are able to easily relate, especially because many times, this experiences begin with being surrounded by the wrong types of people, much like Hamilton was. The character theme is also important to understand; in this case there were several characters that were important enough to influence Hamilton. The most general “character” would be the various figures within the baseball setting such as the coaches, managers, and fans. This emphasizes the pressures in the sports industry. Because he is surrounded by the people within the baseball world he has put himself into, he is affected greatly by their opinions and image they expect him to fulfill as a professional baseball player. His family members are also characters that play an important part in his story, each with different roles during Hamilton’s journey. His parents are especially important during the beginning part of the book, when he discusses his beginning of his baseball career because they were the ones that he surrounded himself by because he felt they were better to be around than some of the players. They were clearly an important part of all of the decisions he made when they were around him, but many of the other characters in the baseball setting seemed to not only contrast the influence they had on him but were oppose to the idea that Hamilton was so “dependent” on his parents. Eventually
  7. 7. Valero 7 because of several situations, his parents were unable to be as involved in his life as they were before and their relationship was disconnected. This was one change that led to the introduction of another character that goes along with the setting of the tattoo parlor. After becoming used to the idea of hanging around the tattoo parlor, he became even more used to the environment and eventually accepted an invitation from the workers to go out one night, leading to the initial decision he made to experiment with drugs. As the story goes through different stages of his journey, the characters and their importance change as well. Obviously the tattoo parlor workers had a bigger influence during his time of addiction, but as he was struggling to recover, a new figure came into his life, Katie, who is now his wife. Though things didn’t change immediately after he met her, there was that positive influence she had on him and it ended up having a permanent effect on him. The action theme is the last one to find in a piece of rhetoric when using fantasy-theme criticism. In “Beyond Belief,” the actual actions he takes part in are specific, but represent greater, more general ideas, allowing the rhetorical vision these themes will create to be broader, including more audience members. The action of Hamilton playing baseball seems significant yet very specific at first glance, but after understanding that it will be able to represent the action of any sport and the pressure received once one takes part in a sport it is seen as an important action theme within the book. Another action theme that plays an important role in the book is the inability to fulfill expectations within the sport; in Hamilton’s case it is specifically because he got hurt and was unable to play baseball on a regular basis. The different actions he takes part in represent the different stage of the book, such as the action theme of experimenting and becoming dependent on drugs. This is the central part of the story, which takes place after being unable to fulfill his duties as a professional baseball player, but before the final stage—recovery.
  8. 8. Valero 8 The ending of the book is represented mostly by the action of recovering from his addiction, again not necessarily just from cocaine which is the drug he was dependent on, but can be representative of any sort of addiction to drugs, alcohol, or anything negative. Even within that action theme, his methods of recovering such as receiving help from those close to him, the character discussed as Katie, and the use of religion can be seen as important action themes in reference to the rhetorical vision. It is then necessary to recognize the rhetorical vision or visions brought together from the connection of the setting, character, and action themes. All of the themes were specifically related to Hamilton and his story, yet he finds a way to connect these themes to a broader audience and not just those who have dealt with the exact situation as his. By doing so, he creates a rhetorical vision that includes the pressures and high competitiveness that comes along with being involved in a sport. Along with those pressures come the actions and possible negative decisions some make when unable to fulfill the expectations from those within the sports environment, which is another part of the rhetorical vision that Hamilton creates in relation to his own experience. One last part of the rhetorical vision is the idea that it is significant who one chooses to surround him or herself with in order to influence decisions made during these struggles and hard times, and different ways to deal with these problems, such as religion and spiritual growth. With this rhetorical vision Hamilton creates, readers are able to relate to what he has gone through if they have experienced something similar, even if it is not specifically a baseball player dealing with drug problems. Specific points, ideas, and literary devices included within the book can be recognized in order to emphasize and complement the themes and visions created. The first is Hamilton’s strong use of contrast within his book. The story he tells can be divided up into three major parts
  9. 9. Valero 9 or stages, each contrasting greatly with the one following. The first stage is focused on the beginning of his journey and introduction into the professional baseball environment. Generally, there is nothing negative within this section and is used to explain the background of Hamilton’s life, but more importantly it is written in order to allow us to understand what he was experiencing during this time period, and tries to put us on the same level in order to allow us to, in a way, experience this sudden change and transformation into professional baseball player ourselves. The characters this section revolves around mostly are his parents and the figures within the baseball setting, which emphasizes why these themes discussed earlier are of such importance. Moving on to the next section focused on his struggle with drugs and his detachment from his love of baseball, there is an obvious moving point in chapter six of the book when Hamilton discusses the tattoos he got. At this point, he had already been experimenting with various tattoos and went to the parlor as an escape away from baseball, so his body was full of ink. He speaks of two significant tattoos, both on the same leg—one of Jesus’ face superimposed over a cross, and the other of a demon with no eyes (85). He states how at the time, he was unable to see what it signified, but now as he looks back he understands it was the symbolism of a “spiritual warfare taking place subconsciously on (his) body” (85). The chapter itself is less than a page long, just long enough to introduce the idea of this spiritual warfare and his soon to be struggle with addiction. The short chapter is increases the intensity of his problem he is about to endure, and the last three short sentences enhance the idea even more: “The soulless demon. The face of Jesus. The battle had begun” (85). Included in this section are vivid images he sees of the devil and descriptions of the torment he receives alongside his experimentation and
  10. 10. Valero 10 addiction to cocaine, with the help of different characters from the first, mostly the workers from the tattoo parlor itself. The last section transforms into the recovery stage of Hamilton’s journey, and the transformation is more subtle and less sudden than what is seen in chapter six. With the new characters of Katie, his wife and other family members who assisted him positively during his struggle, he tries to recover from his addiction and change back into the person he was during the first stage of the book. There are still a few images of the devil’s torment described in this section, but even more of Jesus guiding him in the right direction, assisting with the subtle movement from the addiction stage to the recovery stage in the book. This eventually leads to his dependence on religion and a spiritual growth as a recovery method, one of the last action themes discussed. Addicts of various sorts and their modes of recovery are reviewed, and growth in spirituality is common. The idea that addicts were “born again” was an important factor that is consistent with the story Hamilton tells (Galanter 290). Zila van der Meer Sanchez and Solange A. Nappo also include specific activities of prayer and attending church in their article, an analysis of spirituality as a recovery method for addicts. Judith Grant touches on the importance of individuality in such a case in her article, and furthers the topic including a discussion on symbolic interactionism along with concepts of self and reflexivity (523). The different stages Hamilton includes in his book are necessary to understand the different stages he went through himself throughout his experience with addiction. Michael A. Katovich also uses a similar approach in his narrative and uses details from his journey “from chaos to a moment of serenity” (1). Within his paper he uses themes including loss, love, dissolution, addiction, institutionalization, and codes of the street (1). His approach seems to be effective in including outsiders who may not have gone through the struggles of addiction, and
  11. 11. Valero 11 Hamilton uses a similar structure in his paper displaying the chaotic stage as well as the before and after, including the audience in the best way that he can. The idea of spirituality assisting one’s recovery from drug addiction leads to the understanding of the values Hamilton depicts as important throughout the story. In Sarah Kornfield’s analysis of an animated Japanese show, she explains how it creates a rhetorical vision which has a focus on self-esteem, authenticity, and life’s inherent value. Though the show is a very different source than a book, the analysis Kornfield did was able to serve as a guide in analyzing an artifact using fantasy-theme criticism, especially one based on similar values. Like the Japanese show, “Beyond Belief” includes a similar rhetorical vision for its readers, emphasizing important values for one’s life. Because it was such a struggle and long journey for him, Hamilton tells his story not to explain his actions of the past or to apologize, but instead has a goal of relating his message to the audience and allowing readers to relate to his story. As an athlete, he has a clear connection with other athletes and figures in the sports industry, but with his drug addiction and other struggles, he relates to many more. Like previously mentioned, there are pressures from external factors (coaches, fans, teammates, etc.) which could lead to one becoming obsessed to live up to their expectations, but once they have experienced “failure,” in the recovery stage of addiction it is important for one to recognize their own personal identity and understand what they want to achieve. In many cases, like Hamilton’s, a growth in spirituality will help one achieve this. This new idea of religion and spirituality is a huge contrast from the previous section, and the difference between the sections within the book, and between the images he sees of God and the devil are ways Hamilton creates his rhetorical vision in order to relate to audience members.
  12. 12. Valero 12 Repetition is another way Hamilton emphasizes certain points within his rhetorical vision he creates. One specific example of this is in the last section during the recovery stage. From pages 171 to 174 the phrase “piece by piece” is repeated several times throughout the paragraphs. It is in this section that he is actually beginning his recovery and is not seen as a failure anymore because at this point, his grandmother actually trusted him with her credit card, something that would have been seen as a risky move just weeks before because he would have used it to obtain more drugs. He says he was only able to use the credit card to order pizza and he would leave the receipts on the kitchen table in order for his grandmother to know that is what he spent it on, but as he states, he just had to take gradually recover and gain more responsibilities “piece by piece.” In this period he also speaks about how he wanted to spend time with his wife and children around Christmas, but Katie was not quite ready to have him over at the house so they met up at a parking lot and he was able to hold his two daughters; not something that would fulfill most men’s desire with his family, but for Hamilton, he saw this as just one of the “pieces” that fit into the bigger picture of his recovery. The rhetorical vision created by Hamilton is one that is made in order to relate to as broad an audience as possible, and has the main point of allowing his readers to understand the long, harsh journey he went to as much as possible. In order to achieve this, he used several techniques. One is the decision of using the written word in order to reach a wider audience. This is the case of many public figures who decide to put their story down in words, but in Hamilton’s case it seems significant because though in the past year his popularity throughout the baseball world has grown and he has given speeches and speaks openly about his testimony to the public, he found a way to try to include even more people in his story. By writing a book, he now is able
  13. 13. Valero 13 to grasp the attention of not only Texas Rangers fans, or even baseball fans, but people interested in sports, addiction, competitiveness, or any of the other broad topics the book relates to. Not only his decision to write the book, but the way he decided to write it affect the overall rhetorical vision and connection to the audience. Instead of trying to make the book sound as professional or as wordy as possible, Hamilton uses a very conversational and casual tone like he is just speaking to someone about what he has gone through. He even mentions in the beginning that he was anything but good in his English class, so it is ironic that he is the author and main subject of a published book. Through this casual tone and atmosphere he creates from the beginning of the book, the audience is able to better relate and understand the experiences Hamilton has gone through. By using fantasy-theme to criticize Hamilton’s story, we are able to understand how this theory can be used with similar stories and testimonies. Many testimonies are written by authors about personal experiences, but try to grasp the audience’s attention by bringing them into the experience themselves. By criticizing Hamilton’s testimony, we find certain techniques that can be used by writers to connect to their audience in a more broad way. The analysis allows us to now understand how to bring the reader closer to the author’s experience and how certain literary devices, such as contrast or repetition, can be used to grasp the reader’s attention even more and include them in the experience he or she is reading about. Whether or not this is the best approach to take when writing a testimony and whether these techniques are the best ones to be used is still to be determined. By using other theories to criticize similar texts, we will be able to have a better understanding of how to effectively communicate one’s message and experience with his or her audience.
  14. 14. Valero 14 Josh Hamilton has a unique story of his long battle with drugs after falling off his path of his lifelong dream of being a professional baseball player. The competitiveness and pressures within sports is not known to all, and because of that Hamilton chooses to create a rhetorical vision that a broad audience can relate to. He has been very public about his journey and struggles and by writing a book using the techniques he has, he brings even more people into the experience on a personal level, allowing them to relate in various ways
  15. 15. Valero 15 Works Cited Anshel, Mark A., and W. Larry Gregory. "The Effectiveness of a Stress Training Program in Coping with Criticism in Sport” Journal of Sport Behavior 13.4 (Dec. 1990): 194. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Scaborough-Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 1 Mar. 2009 Baumeister, Roy F., and Carolin J. Showers. "A Review of Paradoxical Performance Effects: Choking Under Pressure in Sports and Mental Tests." European Journal of Social Psychology 16.4 (Oct. 1986): 361-383. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough-Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 1 Mar. 2009 Galanter, Marc. "Spirituality and Addiction: A Research and Clinical Perspective." American Journal on Addictions 15.4 (July 2006): 286-292. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough-Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 1 Mar. 2009 Grant, Judith. "Rural Women's Stories of Recovery from Addiction." Addiction Research & Theory 15.5 (Oct. 2007): 521-541. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough- Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 25 Feb. 2009 Hamilton, Josh, and Tim Keown. Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back. Nashville: Faith Worlds, 2008. Katovich, Michael A. "Loss and Recovery: One Note at a Time." Qualitative Inquiry 15.3 (Mar. 2009): 503-525. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough-Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 30 Mar. 2009 Kornfield, Sarah. "Becoming Tohru: The Rhetoric of Acceptance." Conference Papers -- National Communication Association (Nov. 2007): 1. Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough-Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 25 Feb. 2009
  16. 16. Valero 16 Mohrmann, G.P. "An Essay on Fantasy Theme Criticism." Quarterly Journal of Speech 68.2 (May 1982): 109. Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough- Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 25 Feb. 2009 Mohrmann, G.P. "II. Fantasy Theme Criticism: A Peroration." Quarterly Journal of Speech 68.3 (Aug. 1982): 305. Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough- Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 25 Feb. 2009 Sanchez, Zila van der Meer, and Solange A. Nappo. "Religious Treatments for Drug Addiction: An Exploratory Study in Brazil." Social Science & Medicine 67.4 (15 Aug. 2008): 638-646. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Scarborough-Phillips Library, Austin, TX. 2 Mar. 2009