Paterno and the case of lapsed values

When CNN brings on Dr. Phil to discuss the situation and my sister-in-law is moved to tweet about it, well, to me that indicates that the situation at Penn State has gone past the sporting world and into the national vernacular. For those cloistered this past week, charges of sex abuse against a former Penn State assistant football coach left the program and the school in a state of higher education and athletic chaos. As details emerged, it seemed that the revered 84-year old coach Joe Paterno did what he was required by law when an incident was brought to his attention — he reported it to his boss. The administration did nothing with the information and Paterno never followed up. After lots of uproar, Paterno and the university’s president were fired late Wednesday night.

Others have discussed the situation much more eloquently than I ever could. (See particularly the poignant piece written by Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post.) The disappointment, even for a casual observer as myself, is that in this instance Joe Paterno failed to live his values. He failed on levels of dignity, integrity and honesty when he did the bare minimum. He failed to live the principles he touted for decades as the basis of his program.

As I finished my run this morning, I couldn’t help but think abut my own connection to my own values. It’s one thing to say something is really important to me, but do I mean it? Do I live it? Do I make choices from my best place or do I worry about repercussions elsewhere, from family, friends or colleagues? The choices I make today create my world tomorrow. It’s not about being perfect, but it is about being true to who I am and living that truth, the best way I can, from moment to moment.

I started my day with a 12K run in the rain. For me, it was an expression of my values around health, well-being and community. It connected me to my desire to be active and adventurous, to be engaged with life instead of merely an observer. It is from this point that I start my day, from these values that I begin to shape what my world will look like for the next 24 hours and beyond.

There are serious issues to discuss around the situation at Penn State including, but not limited to, the sexual abuse of children, the concentration of power and the culture of college football. And while those discussions are extremely important, I keep coming back to one thought: Joe Paterno failed to live his values. That disconnect can have devastating consequences.

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