Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sixty Second Window

You're standing as a witness to a crime. You're watching as another child, your teammate/classmate rifles through a lost and found box. A lost and found box of odd and end clothing. A lost and found box that belongs to another school. It belongs to another set of people, students, to which you do not belong. You watch as he continues to dig through the box. You have a friend standing next to you. He is watching the scene before him as well.

There are two girls from the school you are visiting standing there as well. Watching. As your classmate, team member, continues to dig through the box. You say to him, to distract, to make him stop, for him to realize others are watching, "Hey, did you find your jacket you laid down in the gym?" He looks up, mumbles something under his breath but turns back into the box, and continues to dig. He pulls a purple jacket out of the heap, turns around and heads straight to the bus.

Several weeks ago you were asked to become an Assistant Coach for the Junior Varsity basketball team. You are excited, honored, and anxious to help. It requires that you are there for each practice, to mentor/help these young boys learn the fundamentals of the game. You are required to dress in suit and tie attire to properly represent your school and the team at all games.

Today you were not prepared for what came your way. You were not prepared for the decision that must be made.  In a split second, that boy walked off with a jacket that did not belong to him and you didn't say a word. You didn't shout at him to put it back. You didn't take any steps toward him to take the jacket from him and put it back. You watched in stunned silence, as he walked off with that jacket and climbed onto the bus.

Many things would happen next. Disciplinary actions were set into place. You would be asked to step down from your Assistant Coaching duties for failure to show good moral judgement in a leadership role. You would be asked to write a letter of apology to the Athletic Director of the school you were visiting, and serve an in-school detention.

Calls would be made to your mother at work. Explaining all of the above. She would have a range of emotions from disappointment, unbelievably stunned, and sad. But she would realize that you are still a work in progress. You are sixteen years old, and you made a bad decision. She would realize you had a sixty second window of opportunity, and you did not take that opportunity to do the right thing.

Later she would be told, that you acted as a man. Accepting full responsibility for your actions, or lack of, and whatever punishment that were to come your way. She would be told what a fine young man you are, that pressures are tough at your age, and that all of those things were understood and taken into account regarding the situation.

You and your mother will discuss what happened several times, and several times more. You are more disappointed in yourself than your Mother ever could be. You will tell her you know what you did was not right, that you did not make the right decision, and that you let your sixty second window close without doing your moral duty as a man, as a person.

Your mother has no doubt that you meant every word you said. She does believe that, presented with the same situation again, the outcome would be different. She knows all of these things, because she knows how she has raised you. How she has preached, lectured and taught you, what is the right thing to do.

Joe Paterno, a coaching legend, a man legend, passed away last night. Your mother held such a staunch and steady opinion of his role in the whole nasty and sad situation at Penn State University. You will remember that she ranted for days that he did not fulfill his role as a man, as a human being. That in his sixty second window, he did not do the right thing.

Your mother does not change the rules for you. Because you are her son, she does not lessen the responsibility, nor does she accept such behavior as acceptable. She works hard to teach and re-teach these learnings. But she knows, you are sixteen years old. And you have growing to do and lessons left to learn. And her only hope, is that at eighty five years old, you never, ever have to learn a lesson about moral duty again.

Joe Paterno was a good man who made a bad decision. A decision that would bring further harm to people's lives and mar his image and career. For whatever were his reasons, because we shall surely never really know, he turned his head, and laid his moral duty as a man aside. May his mistake live on in the minds of others faced with similar situations in their lives. May his mistake not go unlearned, and may his legend of coaching greatness be remembered for what it was, without the shadows of regret for that lost sixty seconds.

Rest in Peace Joe Paterno. Even in the lingering shadows, you helped me to teach my son a lesson he will not soon forget.


  1. My daughter played sports all the way through school. She actually had something very important to her stolen from her locker by one of her team mates, she knew who it was she too was forced to make a decision, tell on her or confront her. She chose to confront her, knowing that her team mate would be kicked off the team. And maybe she didn't have the same opportunities as my daughter and her life was harder. Not that my daughter thought that made it okay or was a good excuse for stealing. She thought it was a good excuse for not turning her in. It was her decision to make not mine and I think she made the right decision in the end. I think our children can only learn from what they live and you don't know what was going through his mind at that small moment of time, my daughter had time to think about this, 60 secs. is one minute of his life. None of really know what we would have done.

    1. You are absolutely right. Peer pressure is hard, as is all the things that go with being a teenager in general..right down the the shock of the situation at that minute...that only he can know. If they weren't for all of us to learn, they wouldn't have been given the name Life Lessons.

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