Missouri football coach, Gary Pinkel, said he believes it’s “wrong” to place sole blame on Joe Paterno for the colossal clusterf#$% that has happened at PSU. He believes Joe would act differently if he could; that if he could “do it all over again” he would have acted differently and done more. Unfortunately, nobody gets that option. If you did have the chance, you wouldn’t make mistakes because you would know through hindsight what was the right decision. If Napoleon could do it over, he wouldn’t “get involved in a land war in Asia” and Bush has said repeatedly he would do things differently if he could go back. Nobody is afforded that luxury, which is what makes life so hard, you aren’t given second chances, ever.
Sci-fi movies have looked into this idea on many occasions, hardly ever with a positive outcome. Although theoretically, the idea of relativity posits time as an unending line of outcomes whereby the past, future and present exist in one eternal moment, and all your choices have already been chosen, by you, so if we can bend it by speeding rapidly between two points on that line, we could move through time. However, we are far from the light speed, or even “ludicrous” speed necessary for such travel. Until then, we are left in our limbo of present.
I believe it’s unfair to place sole blame of child abuse on Paterno. He was not the one responsible for it, but he did not stop it. Paterno ran that show; he could have had them erect ten statues of him on campus. As soon as he found out about wrongdoing to children, he should have ended it, because that is what you do when you have power to end suffering. But, anyone old enough to have moved past the powerful naiveté of the post teenage years knows that once you have power, you are more susceptible to misconduct. Look at politicians who harass, caress and sexualize the women around them. Look at priests who do the same to the alter boys around them. Look at the CEO’s of AIG or Lehman Brothers who duped their stockholders, but kept their jobs because they were in charge of hiring and firing. It takes a special kind of person to remain judicious and fair once given the keys to a kingdom.
I’m so upset by this scandal, and how a man who I used to watch (with great admiration) on Saturdays, all my life, could have had such indifference to one group of people, while having such misplaced dedication to another. He reminded me of my grandfather; he was such a goofy looking guy with his giant (hipster before hipster was fashionable) glasses, huge Italian nose and floodwater rolled khakis. Appearances can be deceiving. He lost his truth in the vacuum of fallacy that is modern college athletics. Division 1 football is a moneymaker, and once money reaches a certain priority, it is protected at all levels, at all costs. Although the good he did cannot be erased by what he failed to do, it is marred and scarred forever.
Today, I finished reading the biography of Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, written by his wife, Terri. I was always a fond fan of his shows, his Australian patois, his ceaseless energy, his complete love of all wildlife and his dedication to conservationism. I knew how the story ended, I knew almost all the events, but it was nice to get the inside version of how it happened. Throughout the book, I learned that Steve had premonitions of not making to age 40. He was committed to making each moment count. I cried when I got to the death section, even though I knew by the title it was coming. I tried to remind myself, here was a man who lived his life, how he wanted to, with pure energy and elan, and presumably had no regrets. It got me thinking.
I used to think I wanted to live my life with no regrets, but as I am learning—that is impossible. I regret not talking to this or that girl who passed me in the street. I regret not seeing the Musee D’Orsay. I regret not spending more time with my 3 deceased grandparents when they were alive. I totally regret not seeing Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo when I passed through Brisbane in 2003. He might have been there and I might have seen him do a show in the “crocoseum,” his specially built gladiator ring to show off the big “salties.” Beside the Museum in Paris, I missed those chances. Regret is just another part of the anxiety of life, unavoidable at times. It is remorse we must avoid.
Steve Irwin won’t be remorseful for diving with those stingrays, he did it before; he also wrangled venomous snakes and fish, wrestled four-meter crocodiles, chased down emus, and climbed trees with orangutans. He did it for a living, and he knew he couldn’t last long with those odds stacked against him. He may regret leaving his young children and true love behind, but he loved them while he could. What early, untimely death isn’t filled with that stinging regret of lost time to give more love where it was needed? He died leaving his love spread as wide as the outback.
Paterno has a different culmination. He most certainly died filled with remorse. He was probably a good man, lost in that vacuum that supreme power can create. He probably let the regret of keeping Sandusky around bite into him every day until it became a cancerous mound of remorse. I know he was 85, and had lung cancer, but he died three months after the indictment of Sandusky. Could the regret have metastasized into a cancerous form of deathly remorse?
One of my favorite Beatles songs, “Within You, Without You,” written by George Harrison, has a line that seems apropos to this situation. “And to see you’re really only very small, and life flows on within you and without you. We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold and the people who gain the world and lose their soul.” Poor Joe definitely had the world of football in his hands: respect, awards, championships, and unbreakable records. He lost his caring, giving soul (the one that must have led him to coaching) in the process of reaching those dizzying heights of success.
The Dalai Lama understands people, and the human condition; he feels the flow of the universe in his veins. Steve Irwin understands animals this way. You can tell he actually believes that that cobra in his calloused hands is “gorgeous,” or that the thorny devil with her mottled brown spots and scaly exterior is truly a “pretty little bugga.” I have cried during every single “Crocodile Hunter” episode I’ve ever watched. At some point in his bush excursions, Steve would come upon a dying echidna or a kangaroo that was hit by a car, and you couldn’t help but be affected by Steve’s genuine concern for them. He would sit by them, stroking and consoling them, but realize they were too far-gone and tell the camera, “It’s too late, all we can do is stay here as long as we can and make them as comfortable as possible.” I remember one episode where there had been a huge bushfire due to drought conditions, and Steve and Terri ran around frantically collecting spiders from the burning charred desert landscape. He cared so much for the plight of wildlife, and it was contagious. Steve Irwin is a recognizable and legitimate hero. I don’t even want to think how let down I would have been to find out that Steve was arrested for allowing people at his zoo to sell crocodile skin for tacky shoes or shark fins for some overpriced soup.