Being an entertainment venue, sports should be a vehicle to release us from the cares and pains we see in everyday life, but more and more we see the ills of society invading that space.
One year ago, we were consumed by the Jerry Sandusky story. The child molestation case not only led to the sad demise of coaching legend Joe Paterno but the scandal shook the great university to its very core.
Given the severity of NCAA penalties against PSU, which included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban from bowl games and a "fire sale" on roster players who could switch to another school without having to sit out a season of eligibility, the Lions chances of having a winning season seemed slim at best. The fact that the coaching staff was able to hold the team together and inspire an eight win season with the remnant players was an accomplishment worthy enough to earn Bill O'Brien coach of the year recognition in our book.
Sandusky's dark case, involving 45 counts of child sexual abuse and 10 boys, did show us how easy it was for those in the chain of command to turn away and ignore the evil lurking about the campus. From the early 1990s, there were opportunities that were missed, from the janitors and other subordinates who were afraid to talk for fear of losing their jobs, to the abuse victims themselves, who felt ashamed, bullied or under pressure not to talk.
If only someone had stepped forward ...
Last weekend, a year after the Sandusky story was dominating headlines, our society was sent reeling again by a wrenching murder-suicide involving Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs. The tragedy unfolded early Saturday when Belcher shot his girlfriend at a residence near Arrowhead stadium, then turned the handgun on himself in the stadium parking lot in front of the team's head coach and general manager, the team banded together and played on Sunday, a game which they won.
After leading the Chiefs to their second victory of the season, quarterback Brady Quinn used the post-game press conference to share his thoughts on the shootings, which left the couple's 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, an orphan.
"The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people," Quinn said. "I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?"
Quinn eloquently put the game in its proper perspective.
"We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that's fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us," he said. "Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis."
To hear this kind of introspection from someone more used to pushing the ball down the football field should inspire us all as we deal with the daily lessons of life.
By Jim Zbick