The curious case of Tim Hardaway

Contrary to F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are often times second acts in American lives. It's become cliché, but we as a people are famous for finding heroes, building them up, tearing them up and then rebuilding them. But there are a few who remain radioactive. Those who have done something so poisonous or humorous they become a punchline. John Rocker comes to mind. With that in mind, the fact that Tim Hardaway didn't become that kind of caricature fascinates me. And makes me happy. In case you don't remember (which I find unlikely), Tim Hardaway reacted directly and angrily against the idea of a gay teammate in 2007 on the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz: It was as shocking as it was blunt. There was no getting around what was said, no attempt to qualify it away. He lost sponsorships, a car wash and all contact with the team he identified with the most, the Miami Heat. He said he wanted to apologize soon afterward, but no one wanted to hear him, and his legacy seemed blown to smithereens. Left for dead, he went to work. Behind the scenes, he reached out to GBLT groups, hoping to explain what he had said, and looking for someone to explain what the other side is like. He learned of the dangers to gay children, isolated by friends and family. He spoke to them, they spoke to him. Finally, more than two years after the incident, it was revealed he would sponsor an event for The Trevor Project -- a national suicide prevention group for gay youth. It was long enough for the heat from the controversy to fade. Long enough for most to believe he couldn't possibly be doing it just for publicity's sake. Long enough that it seemed sincere. Of course, you can never know what lurks in the hearts of men, but in an age where so much is scrutinized and disbelieved, it didn't seem like pure publicity. That infomation in September started a wave of good Hardaway news. He had his number retired by the Heat, a team which cut ties with him after the controversy. Just last week, he was hired to partner up with Alonzo Mourning as a Community and Corporate Liaison. And Saturday, he was featured prominently in coverage of Heat representatives visiting Haiti, including an amazingly sweet photo of the former radioactive man holding newborn babies in a field hospital in Port-au-Prince. Alexandre Meneghini/Associated Press Hardly a photo you would have imagined seeing two years ago, no? So what is to be made of this story? Is it that America truly is the country of second chances, no mater how awful the offense? Is it that in a fast-paced world people forget about how shocking a moment like that is? Or is it that if you work really, really hard at changing your public image, and do it in a way which seems genuine, and legitimately do a significant amount of good, you might actually get back into the good graces of the public who liked you in the first place? Either way, if it's producing the kind of good and home and abroad that we've seen, I'm all for it.
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