Monday, January 23, 2012

Joe Paterno, 1926-2012

Now that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno passed away (1-22-2012), I want to add a few thoughts to the ones I've given right after the scandal at Penn State broke out in November of last year (see links to my posts in the Sunday Snippets post here). This involved sexual molestation charges against a former assistant coach who was still using Penn State facilities but had resigned several years earlier. A witness told Joe about it, who then told his boss, the athletic director. However, nothing happened for nine years, and when the details finally broke in the media, the public was furious. In the end, the University president, the athletic director and Joe Paterno were all fired from their jobs.

Many think Joe was treated badly by the University Board, citing all the good he had done, not only in winning football games, but contributing money and encouraging education. But others agreed with the Board's actions.

Paterno had offered to retire at the end of the season. At the time, I felt Paterno should be fired, but after thinking about it, perhaps the board should have come to him. They might have said, retire immediately, not at the end of the season, and we won't fire you. The transition would not have been perfect, but it might have acknowledged all the good Joe had done in the past. No one would have forgotten why Joe left when he did.

Paterno himself had said about the scandal that he wished he had done more. In his last interview, he said he didn't know what to do about the situation. I believe that, and hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. Life can be complicated, and often we try to get away with things by ignoring them. Sometimes that works (we don't get in immediate trouble, that is), and sometimes it doesn't. Unfortunately, other people may be getting hurt by our inaction. I am thinking beyond the case at Penn State. Don't many of us ignore hunger in other countries and even our own? What about earthquake victims who still don't have homes? We might say it is too overwhelming and we can't fix everything. Even when we give, it is still not enough. Yet how much do we accumulate for ourselves that we don't really need?

The main point is that people can be very highly regarded, and even for good reason. They may raise a great deal of funds for good causes, and influence young people for good. Yet they are not perfect. No person on Earth, no matter how great his or her acts, has been perfect except One. Joe couldn't earn his way to heaven, nor can I. Romans 3:27 says, What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith. (New American Bible, USCCB website).

We have been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ so that if we believe in Him, we may enter His kingdom. That puts us on the same field, but we're not just playing a game.

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