Communitarian Soul: The Fall from Grace is a Sad ThingWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Regardless of where you place your affections, watching someone at the top of his or her field fall from grace is a hard and sad thing. In college I was one of many who referred to our President as “Tricky Dick.” So in the Summer of 74, my friends and I waited with gleeful expectation for the shoe to finally drop.
As I watched that whole sordid story unfold, the images still linger. The disgraced president reading his resignation, the trip up the steps to Air Force One, the awkward turn to look back, the sad but defiant salute to the job he fought so hard to get and keep. The glee all washed away from my spirit. There is nothing pretty about a fall from grace.
Maybe not at a presidential level, but the fall of a beloved football coached to his adoring and detracting fans is as every bit as ugly; especially when it is one of “our guys” who has a solid reputation for being a good, decent, and honest guy. For Ohio State fans, Jim Tressel was the package. Unlike Woody, he could keep his cool. Unlike Earl, he had a style and a grace about him. Unlike Cooper, he could beat Michigan. He brought home one national title and was destined to bring home another. He has a reputation for not only giving lip service but actually practicing his citizenship and his religious faith. He seemed to be a person who takes personal integrity seriously. All of that is now in question because of an impulsive act on the part of a few players to trade their fame for a few tattoos.
How is it that a reputation that can loom so large, be toppled by an act that seems so trivial?
Of course, I do not know the details. OSU fans argue that Mr. Tressel did what he did to protect his kids. This argument does have an heir of nobility about it. Michigan fans argue that “Tressel” did what he did to nail down his second national title? Obviously, this argument has a more nefarious ring to it. Who knows? Naturally I op for the more noble purpose, but then again I am an OSU grad.
The broader question has little to do with Mr. Tressel’s motivation. I think it is related to the challenge each of us faces as we struggle to make sense of living in a time where it is not unusual for many to hold tightly to sets of values that are in conflict with each other. We Americans love winning. Remember Lombardi’s “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing?” At the same time we Americans want fairness. To that end we regulate everything from how we do business to how we play our games. Clearly, these two value systems will be in conflict. It is no fun being caught in a place of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The temptation is to look for a third way, a way that allows the paradox to be circumvented. The problem is, the paradox can’t be circumvented. A choice will need to be made.
My point is simply this: if we as a society were honest about our ambivalence over moral clarity, we might find a more gracious and helpful way that to address these times when our values are in conflict with each other. But since we are not, we are all forced to watch, yet again, another painful drama unfold of a good and decent guy fall hard from grace. How sad.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist pastor living in Bowling Green, Ohio.