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Joan Rivers died.  We know that and after a few small tributes, that is all I needed.  I did not need to listen to our media try to suck every last drop of news out of her death, try to put the surgeon on trial and suggest he is irresponsibly responsible for her death and only cared about her celebrity.  I hope he got a nice selfie with her.

Who cares?  I fear that there are plenty of people outside of the Rivers family acquaintances who care far too much.

Adrian Peterson is one of the most fantastic running backs the NFL has ever seen.  Ray Rice is no slouch.  They are football players.  Their job is dangerous, physically demanding, with tasks that encourage them to inflict violent physical punishment and to endure the same.  They are paid handsomely, something many resent and look to find reasons to criticize them.

Peterson missed an entire football season, a magnificent career likely ended.  Why?  He spanked his four year old son.

Rice is suspended indefinitely from playing in the NFL.  Why?  He punched his fiancé and knocked her out, something that was caught on camera.  The video of that incident is horrific to watch.

What does either of those acts have to do with playing football, a professional sport that requires violent performance from its athletes?  Nothing at all.  Debate that if you want but I doubt that no one can provide a reasonable answer to that question.

Why should something that happens in Peterson and Rice’s personal lives cause them to be punished BY THE NFL?

Had our media not taken advantage of us by amplifying the offense of each man, by bombarding us with coverage and evaluation, the NFL would have done what I think they intended to do — treat personal issues as personal issues, not job related issues. Roger Goodell is more right than he is getting credit for.   No one can debate the approach both men take to their job, the sacrifice they make to be elite athletes, even the stress that they are under to perform.  These men are being punished by the NFL because of media pressure and the power our culture is willfully giving to an irresponsible media that has no business trying them.  Because of the emotions each incident creates, we are being played.  Manipulated.

Give us Barabbas.

Or a deflated football.

I say whoever is without sin, let them cast the first stone.. or Stone Phillips.

We have created a culture that is quick to condemn.  Yes, I said ‘we’.  Condemnation sells these days, consumed by everyone, devoured with a voracious hunger, our own sins screaming to be forgotten.  Our own sins need to be covered by the horror of another’s greater sin.

That need for vindication, for cleansing, for sanctification, makes us vulnerable.  Manipulated.  We let others think for us, leaving the reaction our only responsibility.

I say that our country is in trouble when we allow those without a moral compass make the decision about what is right and what is wrong, skewing what we believe to whatever is the social hot button of the moment.  Would anyone even be having an issue with Adrian Peterson or any of the other NFL players being named had it not been for the Ray Rice situation?  Probably not.

The NFL is not responsible for making moral judgement, enforcing the law, or for punishing players for conduct in their personal life and not related to what they do as an employee of an NFL franchise.  Adrian Peterson should have been playing football.  So should Ray Rice.  I am not saying this because I think what either has done is right.  I am saying this because they are football players.  If the law decides they should be punished, then the law should punish them.  Let these men do what they were created to do.

Our media has become a kill joy, sucking the life and motivation out of great men and women by looking to expose a sin or a flaw or weakness.  As weakness is exposed and displayed for the whole world to see, we cackle in ecstasy as we kick the great while they are down, tattoo a label on them that all will see forever.  Find that skeleton! is our nation’s cry.

Do I need to give you names?  Think of one word that comes to your mind when the name Lance Armstrong is mentioned.  Got that word?  I bet it was ‘Cheat’.  Pete Rose?  ‘Gambling’.  Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or even Albert Pujols?  ‘Steroids’.  Bill Clinton?  ‘Philanderer’.

Armstrong was such a fierce competitor that he went beyond himself, expected others to do the same, in the name of winning.

Pete Rose inspired with 110% effort and played baseball with a fire few others will match (pun intended).

Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire possessed a blessed talent and the power they possessed made it impossible to employ standard strategy against their team.

Bill Clinton possesses a unique ability to relate to the common man, perhaps part of what brought him down (I am staunchly Republican, so that was hard for me to say).

I get it that they all also have at least one word in common — deceit.  That is indeed not honorable and we bristled when each of them lied when confronted with their sin.  We all do it, most will defend themselves when confronted, and we know how awful deceit feels on a personal level.  We hate to lie and we hate to be lied to.  It makes us feel better about ourselves when it is someone else.  How horrible! we exclaim, knowing from personal experience that it truly is.

How sad when we choose to celebrate the sin rather than focus on the greatness, accomplishment.  Think now of the confusion and disappointment you may continue to feel over the hype generated around Bill Cosby, the endless dance of the media as they feed on the darkness exposed on his past.  I was born in the 60’s, laughed at the stories on his record albums, entertained by the television shows.  Suddenly I hear people exclaim in dismay as they hear more about what he may have done.  So many people sy they do not need to hear it.  They only want to know this man made them laugh, that laughter now tainted by the sin in his life.  We all sin and we know it, perhaps not to as dark of a degree that has been presented to us, but we sin.  And we want to continue to laugh at this man who so masterfully has given us laughter.  That greatness has now suddenly been diminished.  The media has laid Cosby down before us, invited us to pull on our boots for a swift kick, and we just can’t do it.

We question that anyone who has accomplished greatness has done so with character.  Even those never exposed must have a skeleton.  There are some we accept with their flaws, focus on their greatness.  Martin Luther King is one that comes to mind.  John Kennedy.  Ronald Reagan.  George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth, Eddy Merckx (thanks, Carbon Daddy, for that one), Samuel Clemons.  Thomas Edison.  It is their spirit that stands out.  Their sheer will to succeed is what makes their greatness stand out.

Our nation used to focus on that.  Now we can’t wait to cast that stone.

What can we do?  I wish I had the answer.  Instead I do what also has become easy to do in this culture so permeated by irresponsibility.  Complain.  In this age of the squeaky wheel, I can do that, not caring if I am right or wrong.  I can choose to listen to the sound bites, make my judgements on what little I have heard rather than finding the truth.  I can condemn.

Or I can use the off or mute button now and then..take away the power of those who want to profit from condemnation..  Hell, I may even pray for the pariah as they lay on the ground rather than raise my boot.

Here is a challenge for you.  I will do it even if you won’t.  Sit down and write a list of your deepest and darkest sins.  You know you have them.  You might have to contemplate long and hard in order to dredge up some of the ones you have intentionally suppressed.  Now write out your accomplishments, what you want to remember about yourself, the qualities that you want people to talk about at your funeral and when they remember you.  Which of those lists do you want to keep around?  Which really is the important list?  Now take that first list and draw a line through each and every item.  Get a coffee can, a match, and burn that list to a crisp.

Why would you do that?  Because it is not important that anyone else knows anything on that list.  It is up to you to either forget about that black list or do something about what was on it.  It does not and should not matter to anyone else.  Now think about what would happen if just one item survives the fire and is exposed.  Suddenly, that second list, you accomplishments, won’t matter.

Wow.

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