Saturday, August 23, 2008

Josh Hamilton and the Adult Baby Sitter

Josh Hamilton and the Adult Baby-Sitter.

I need you, by me, beside me, to guide me,
To hold me, to scold me, because when I’m bad
I’m so, so bad

-Donna Summer

Sports Illustrated recently did a cover story about Josh Hamilton and his comeback from addiction.

Josh has gone to the depths of hell, but found his way back. Redemption was a combination of Jesus, his wife, 12 step, and his coach, Johnny Narron, who serves as Josh’s, adult baby-sitter.

Narron is with Hamilton nearly 24 hours a day. He handles all Josh’s money, including petty cash. He eats with Josh, prays with him, guards his hotel room and acts as a shield between Hamilton and temptation.

It’s worked. Hamilton is now one of the greatest players in baseball.

A professional athlete has the means and motivation to have an adult baby-sitter. I'm wondering how many average Americans need the same service.

Earlier this summer, I had breakfast with Joe Nocera, the award-winning columnist for the New York Times. In his 1994 classic business book, A Piece of the Action, Nocera chronicles the history of personal finance in America. He concluded the moves gave Americans the chance to have their own “piece of the action” controlling their financial destines.

It stunned me when Joe said that Americans were doing a poor job of handing their newfound freedom.

I realized he was right.

Americans were better-off when they had a defined-benefit, fixed pension, instead of a 401k, where they are subject to fluctuating markets and their own investment decisions.

Americans were better-off, when they didn't have access to high interest credit cards and payday lenders. Americans were better-off with a conventional mortgage and 20% down payment, instead of a nothing down, subprime loan.

We've had increasing amounts of freedom and haven’t done a good job of handling it.

For the past 26 years, my job has been to act as a financial baby-sitter for people who receive large sums of money. My success rate is good, but it comes from understanding that people are going to fall to temptation or do something stupid. I’ve learned to place barriers between people and their money.

I tell lottery winners never to take the lump sum payment. Take the payments over time.

Judge Brandy Brown and Drug Court Program Coordinator Anna Beth Hardiman,, having been showing me the juvenile drug court in Madison and Clark Counties (Kentucky). I became interested watching the two of them on an Emmy winning A&E program called Life or Meth.

There was a captivating scene on Life or Meth when Judge Brown scolded a young man who slept through a 2 pm appointment. Her tone was similar to how a parent deals with a child.

Judge Brown developed the same solution that baseball created for Josh Hamilton: Strong supervision and fewer opportunities for temptation.

At some level, adult Americans are crying out for the kind of supervision, guidance and structure that Judge Brown brings to juveniles in her court.

You can see it happening everywhere.

One of the hottest new occupations is life coaching. People have personal trainers to help them exercise, financial advisers to handle their money and psychologists to talk about life problems.

Others adults don’t have counselors or advisors. When they can’t cope, they turn to drugs and alcohol. Just like Josh Hamilton did.

It is not practical to assign an adult baby-sitter to every hurting American. Few people have the talents of Josh Hamilton. Even fewer have an employer motivated to maximize those talents.

Whatever they are doing with Josh Hamilton, it is obviously working. I’m headed to Judge Brown’s drug court to see how that is working as well.

I’m a big advocate for individual freedom but it in areas like addiction and finance, many adults and juveniles would be better off with someone beside them, to guide them.

Because they are bad, they are so, so bad.

Don McNay is the Chairman of the Board for McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Kentucky. You can write to him at and his award winning, syndicated column at McNay is Treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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