Living in Pennsylvania, it is impossible to escape the terrible, tragic Joe Paterno story that is unfolding day by day: What did he know? When did he know it? What should we think about him now?
I’m an athlete and I love sports news, so I know about idolizing coaches, and the downfall of those idols. It’s not a new story, but what is new is that at the heart of this fall is not money or power [though those are a part of it all, of course] but the abuse of little boys and the corresponding sins of commission and omission by the man on the throne.
What I have been left thinking about these past few days is how Joe Paterno’s legacy is now in tatters–irredeeemably, permanently defiled and destroyed. As murals are painted over, his name erased from walls and awards, it becomes clearer and clearer that this is all anyone is going to remember about him. That’s probably fair enough, given what he did, and what he failed to do, but I admit that I find it sad all the same. A part of me wishes that we could all atone for all our mistakes: that we would and will always have the opportunity to “make it right,” to fix what we screw up, to rebuild the burnt bridges. But, the fact is, sometimes the mistakes we make are too great, too damaging, and come with consequences too severe, too enduring–and all we can do is live with them, attempting to go on somehow and accept God’s forgiveness for ourselves, and work to receive it from others. And, we can continue to hope that God has a way to sort it all out somehow–even if that comes not in our lifetime.