Be The Change You Want To See In The World
In the wake of Joe Paterno's death, and the subsequent memorialization of the man whose epic fail so very few weeks ago rocked the entire sports world, I felt moved to scribble something...Something that mgoblog's Brian Cooke certainly beat me to publishing.
What I was moved to type, rather than the millions of missives focused on the career and dismantling of that man whom the college football universe came to simply and affectionately call JoPa, is not a commentary on his death, but rather on his life, or the illusion that it turned out to be.
When statues cast shadows that remind us to deify the living, the living had better live up to the immense honor and responsibility of being cast in that stone. We can believe now, as debatable as some might have us think it is, that Joe Paterno never existed...at least not the Joe Paterno that we all so eagerly, and prematurely cast in stone. When you've been offered or have assumed a super human role, it makes sense that you be just that, super human...that your decisions be irreproachable, and your actions unassailable. In fact, they must be so. That's not to say that we must deny our most inspiring leaders the fallibility that the vast majority of us enjoy, but it demands that our trust, faith, and affection be honored with truth. When we are denied that truth, we are denied our faith, and too often we are desperate for some. Maybe there never was a JoPa. By the available facts of the ugly matter, I suspect that there wasn't. Seemingly lesser men have made vastly better decisions, have led quiet but miraculously better lives. Seemingly lesser men, without statues, go to work every day and are required to make difficult decisions and get them right...every time.
I was painfully reminded of JoPa's misguided memorialization today because of a seeimingly endless onslaught of awful discussions and decisions that I was forced to manage all day, from the very minute I stepped into the world where I work until long after I was supposed to call the day complete. It began with a dangerous decompressing of a young man who will spend the next year of his life in custody, as I dodged thrown books and epithets, and ended with a difficult discussion with a young, crack-addicted mother...a discussion that will very likely lead to the loss of her infant child. Across those, and every tearful talk in between, I felt the weight of responsibility and of uncomfortable obligation. I have no statue, nary the most humble of followings, and I will never court the curse of any kind of fame. In fact, my version of success stands alone, a solitary definition, and finds little to celebrate in the company of others. I feel the impossible weight of doing the right thing every day. I ask myself each morning if I'm prepared to be the kind of person that I want to be, and I don't get the privilege of answering my own question.
Men who symbolize so much less so often do so much more. Joe Paterno was not the man many made him out to be. There is a statue in Happy Valley that casts an impossibly cold shadow and dozens, if not many more, young men and families will forever rue the day that they believed JoPa to be anything more than a man undeserving of that stone immortality. It's unfair that one of the few things that will last longer than the scars and pain of those young men who were abused under JoPa's watch is a statue immortalizing the man who chose not to honor the one that was bestowed upon him.