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Hero Worship

There's been a column from the Washington Post making the social media rounds recently, as it relates to the Penn State scandal. It's written by Thomas Day, and he's a Penn State alum, former member of Sandusky's Second Mile Foundation, an Iraq war vet, and a Catholic. And he's lost his faith in coach Joe Paterno and the rest of Penn State hierarchy. He has also lost faith in his parents' generation.

One thing I know for certain: A leader must emerge from Happy Valley to tie our community together again, and it won’t come from our parents’ generation.
They have failed us, over and over and over again.
I speak not specifically of our parents -- I have two loving ones -- but of the public leaders our parents’ generation has produced. With the demise of my own community’s two most revered leaders, Sandusky and Joe Paterno, I have decided to continue to respect my elders, but to politely tell them, “Out of my way.”
They have had their time to lead. Time’s up. I’m tired of waiting for them to live up to obligations.
I don't know exactly why so many people are sharing the link to this article through Facebook. Do they agree with Mr. Day? Do they think he makes some good points? I don't know. But I find his piece to be rather disturbing -- not for what it purports to elucidate, but that it begins from a point of disappointed hero worship that a lot of folks seem able to identify with. 

Can we be real here for a sec? Don't put people whom you do not know onto pedestals. Aside from his family, close friends and colleagues, no one really knows Joe Paterno. Yet they're disappointed that he failed to report an allegation of child molestation. Some of them -- such as Mr. Day -- have "lost [their] faith" in not only Paterno, but in all folks older than they are. And there's the problem: That they had that faith to begin with.

People are not here to be worshipped. They are not here to be idolized. Yet we do this on a constant basis and, more often than not, with people we barely know -- if we know them at all. Saying that your mom, dad, grandma or grandpa is your hero is one thing. But to treat someone like a sports team coach, or player, or politician as such is quite another.. The word 'misguided' comes to mind.

I'm not saying that we can't ever look up to someone but, for goodness sake, why on earth would you put something like faith into a person or program you do not know? And why go off the deep end and slam an entire generation? Look -- people are people. Take them as they come. Do not pre-judge them (in either a negative or positive way). And don't put your faith in a stranger who probably couldn't pick you out of a line-up.


  1. I think you make some good points re: hero worship, but I also think this is a unique situation. JoePa was not only revered in Happy Valley for his team's performance on the field, but also because of his contributions to the academic life on campus. He and his wife contributed millions of dollars to various campus causes, among other things.

    We would not see the same reaction had some slick NCAA coach with questionable recruiting practices and poor graduation rates been the one nailed. Part of the problem is that JoePa "preached" that PSU should hold itself to a higher standard. As the saying goes, "the harder they come, the harder they fall."

  2. See, this is part & parcel of the problem.

    So what if someone throws money around in the right places? So what if they 'preach' some stuff that sounds good? Does the money help? Sure. Does the stuff that is preached make sense? Maybe. But should it make folks think a certain way about the person? No.

    Perhaps this is cold-hearted and cynical, but I've come across too many people -- both in my personal life and what I've witness of people in the public eye -- who have their facades caught-out, to truly believe what is presented.

    I'm not saying we have to distrust everyone, or that everyone should be perfect.


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