It is very difficult coming to the realization that something or someone you truly believe in, have revered, and defended for a long time, and have dedicated your life to following is not what you thought it was and might even be the exact opposite of what you appreciated about it.
For me recently, I have had to come to grips with the fact that former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was not the hero I revered for a long time. See, I grew up in Pennsylvania and followed his winning teams every year. His success was abundant while all along running a squeaky clean program with no recruiting violations and a good graduation rate. To top it off, we shared an ethnic heritage (Italian) which became a source of personal pride.
Then the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal hit. My world was shattered. How could Coach Paterno only inform his superiors at the University when he was told that his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was caught showering with a young boy in a university locker room? How could he not blow the whistle loudly to put an end to the carnage and bring a deviant to justice? I mean, Paterno was the moral bastion of college football. As an educator, he would never forsake the well-being of youngsters in order to protect a friend and/or his football program.
But, it’s true. Paterno did not do all that he should have, and many more young boys were abused at Penn State facilities by Jerry Sandusky as a result. This realization has negated close to 40 years of hero worship. Joe Paterno made more than a mistake; he allowed a tragedy to continue. He was not the moral bastion I naively thought he was. It was tough and a long process, but he is no longer a hero.