Death Of A Former Legend?/Martin Rosenfeld

Posted on January 24, 2012


For those who do not follow sports, the name of Joe Paterno meant little until a few months ago. Coach Paterno, of Penn State football fame, had won more college football games than any other coach who had performed on his level of collegiate football.  Ultimately, he was released from his duties after a former assistant was accused of abusing young children.  Many wrote at the time of Coach Paterno’s dismissal (after 6 decades of service) that the decision had been a proper one. It was with interest, therefore, that many read the sports pages around the country to see how Mr. Paterno was remembered after the news of his death had been announced this past weekend.

One article took a balanced approach.  Coach Paterno had been a mentor and role model to many Penn State athletes.  He stood for excellence on the field and in the classroom.  This was the positive aspect of Paterno’s life.  But he turned a “blind eye” to the plight of the children that he had reason to believe had been abused by his coaching assistant.  The writer’s conclusion? Coach Paterno was a good deal like many of us.  He had some admirable traits and he also had some major failings.

I found this to be a realistic approach.  We tend to make our famous fellow traveler’s into sinners or saints.  The truth usually lies somewhere between these two opposite poles.  Very few sinners are without some redeeming feature and few saints have an untainted career resume.  We are part saint and part sinner in our most basic makeup.

It is easy in a divorce process to paint our “opposite number” as sinners.  Of course, we belong to the group known as saints.  The truth usually lies at some point in between these two extremes for all who are involved in the process of divorce.  Mediation allows us to see people in terms of their needs and not their DNA nor their moral worth.  This is a healthy way to view others.  Mediation can lead to positive discussion in lieu of judgmental conclusions.  Does this make sense as a reasonable approach to divorce? I believe it does.  Mediate, don’t litigate.