Monday, July 23, 2012

The Vince Lombardi Syndrome

Vince Lombardi was a legendary NFL coach.  The trophy given each year to the winner of the Super Bowl is named after him.  One of his well-known sayings was "Winning isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing."

That motto seems to personify the thought and life-style of a lot of folk.  Regrettably it seems to have infected the life of the late Joe Paterno, another coach of remarkable ability, who made amazing contributions to the world of football and to his dearly beloved Penn State.  While Lombardi was seen more as a dictator, Paterno was affectionately known as "Papa Joe."

Now we know that Paterno looked the other way too many times in the case of child abuse/molestation of Jerry Sandusky.  In an attempt to befriend his assistant coach, he participated, with many others, in a cover-up.  To the shame of all, the victims are now finding their voice.  And Penn State faces "staggering" sanctions.

To engage this matter truthfully, I must admit that I enjoy sports.  I grew up in Texas where Friday Night Football reigns.  I played in high school and would loved to have played in college, but simply did not have the skills.  If the Carolina Panthers have a winning season and move into the playoffs and, perhaps, the Super Bowl, I will be excited and will cheer them on.  I will take pride in our Olympic teams as they participate in London this summer.

But, surely, we must begin to learn something here at a deeper level.  I get annoyed at the over-use of the word "just" on different occasions, especially in  spoken prayer: "God, we just thank you, and we just praise you, and we just want to do your will, and we just ask that you bless and strengthen us, and etc. etc. etc.

But sometimes the word "just" has its place.  As in:

It is JUST a game.  If I may slightly mistranslate William Faulkner, "There is a time and place where "games" stop, and people begin.

One of the most extreme examples today of giving excessive attention to lesser light is the Roman Catholic Church's participation by its leadership in on-going cover-up of sexual abuse.  Instead of moving with haste to help and heal the victims, there is still evidence that perpetrators are protected.  Instead of opening the windows of 21st century understanding that all are equal and women are not second-class citizens, the efforts are still made to hold women back and down.  Instead of "the last being first," hierarchical arrangements are protected at all costs.

But it is not just in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Vince Lombardi syndrome runs rampant.....everywhere.  Winning is the only thing.

NO!!!!  Responding to human beings, especially those in deep pain, trumps winning everytime.

1 comment:

  1. There is ample evidence that Paterno did some wonderful things off the field and mentored hundreds of players and coaches during his tenure. The repeated "turning away" to these heinous acts weighs heavily on his legacy and cannot be overlooked. What is revealing to me is what in hindsight should be an easy call, can be fumbled so badly. We may never have the same "pulpit" as Paterno or Lombardi, but we may be challenged with vexing decisions with long term impact. I pray for the wisdom to consider carefully the right choice.