While the football world churns toward a new season, the usual off-season misadventures keep writers busy. There has been plenty of news, Dez Bryant and his mother, Aqib Talib and his sister, the usual suspects filling the downtime with foolishness reserved for instant millionaires with too much time on their hands. The most startling being the fall from grace of the once impenetrable fortress known as Joe Paterno.
The football world meets the mainstream when a man like Paterno has his statue removed and his university sanctioned for the sins of a pedophile Joe dismissed 20 years ago… It’s a sign of the times, when a dead man falls in recrimination for the terrible actions of another. It seems certain Paterno knew more about Sandusky than he was willing to share with the authorities, but Paterno is not the criminal and this is the result of the heights Joe was able to attain on the football field.
It is the spotlight on millionaires that reflects the mood of the public. The game has turned into some form of religion where the inquisition is against heretics who stain the field with their infidelities, and are burned at the stake. Millions of dollars are lavished on heroes with the expectation to never blemish the sanctity of the game. The media has become the conscience of the people, hunting down perpetrators or anyone somehow attached to them in a public coup de grâce.
The pen is mightier than the sword and the number of pens is equal to a thousand swords, hence the vitriol has no ears for repentance, only a naked display of public disdain. The importance of character in a player or coach cannot be downplayed when a man of the stature held by Joe Paterno can succumb to the allure of fame or the fear of disgrace.
It is a far cry to find virtues untarnished by the power of eminence and history is filled with the downfall of the mighty, caused by their own success. Football is but a game and the game was never meant to attain gladiator status in the eyes of its creators. Yet cannot Jerry Sandusky be as Brutus with a dagger in his hand, soaked in Paterno’s blood, Et tu, Brute?
Character is not a one man show, it is the collective behavior of an entire organization. When one piece of that organization becomes above criticism and internal admonition, external invectives are soon to follow. This is the lesson of Jerry Sandusky, not just to Penn State, but to every team in any sport, character must go all the way to the bone. If a sore is allowed to fester, it will inevitably become the death knell of all who tried to secrete it away.
Paterno, like Tiger Woods before him, has shown athletes the responsibility of being millionaires at the expense of fans. Those same fans will equal the adulation they celebrate in victory with the scorn they pile on in desecration. The leadership in Miami, hopefully is a little ahead of the curve with the trading of Brandon Marshall. Fans expect more from these athletes and coaches than they expect from themselves and that is the price of fame.
Hard Knocks had hoped to come into town with Brandon Marshall fresh off emergency surgery from a knife wound inflicted by his wife. Alas, Marshall’s act was shipped to Chicago and reunited with his buddy Jay Cutler. South Beach has been quiet, Davie has been quiet and it all points to a team that means business in 2012, but the lesson of Joe Paterno and Penn State should resonate in the minds of football people at every level of the sport.
The interesting thing for Dolphin fans has been the lack of entertainment the team has provided for the media inquisition. Miami is safe for the moment as the pattern; hard-work, fame, riches and demise, is back at the hard-work stage. Many in Dolphin land lament the lack of media attention, but it is surely a situation of being careful what you wish for, because the king is always the target.
Karl Marx once stated, “Religion is the opium of the people…” The game, of course, has not turned into some abstract form of religion, but it is certainly a diversion for the masses of fans and can make paupers rich, while tearing down the statues of fallen kings. The game is a testament to character, from the time a boy dons his first helmet, to the time he walks away from the field as a man, he is taught the virtue of character.
If that virtue is lost in the riches the game provides, it will not be long before the coliseums crumble into ruins and a later civilization looks upon them and wonders, how did the mighty fall?