Have you been bothered at all by the public mourning and celebration of the life of Joe Paterno this week? I have. I grew up as a teenager in Pennsylvania, not too far from State College. Needless to say I grew up with Penn State as my college team, although never challenging my first sports love (Go Eagles!). I liked the Penn State program and I admired Joe Paterno. These last couple months have been disturbing to me and this week has only heightened the disturbing feeling.
I admire what Joe has accomplished in his football career. He was an icon in college football for a half a century and left his mark as the all-time winningest coach. His professional accomplishments are impressive. As we all know by now, his legacy will forever be tied to allegations of him covering up the atrocities that were done by his assistant coach Sandusky against young men. His failure to make these sins public knowledge and going about coaching as usual with Sandusky at his side will forever leave an asterisk next to his life. Since Paterno died last weekend, the media has documented the thousands who have grieved and celebrated his life over the course of several public memorials over several days. Others have been enraged by the celebration of the life of a man who kept such terrible acts quiet. There has been great tension between the two sides.
What do I think? All I know is that this entire situation disturbs me. I cringe when I see evil done in secret (or any evil for that matter); when I see men in power covering up lawless activity for their own gain; when I see people hurting at the hands of others; when I see the success of someone’s life achievements celebrated in spite of the pain he has brought to other; and I feel disturbed when I see people viewing a hero’s immorality as an inconvenience and then refusing to condemn his actions. I know Joe did tell his superiors about the situation when he found out about it and then those superiors buried it. I am glad to know Joe did tell on Sandusky, but when the superiors dropped it so did he. Is that good enough? Is that good enough for you? How do you determine what is right? When does someone’s great moral failure cancel out people’s admiration for what he has accomplished in his career? I hope I can be someone who does what is right no matter what. Although I of course am very flawed as we all are. But that should not stop us from being committed to doing what’s right. No matter what it does to our careers, status, accomplishments, goals, relationships, and finances. What a great world this would be if we all did the right thing no matter what. Well, it starts with you and me.