The recent passing of Joe Paterno got me thinking about how quickly many notable sports figures go from saint to sinner over the course of their careers. Some figures are ostracized because of their behavior on the field while others for their criminal acts off the field. Over the past ten years prominent sports figures like Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, Bill Belichick, and Michael Vick all have had some type of major incident take away from their numerous success on the field of play. Most recently, Joe Paterno, Ryan Braun, Lawrence Taylor, and Sam Hurd have sent shock waves through the sports community with shocking allegations and criminal actions. Although this in not an exhaustive list, there has been a consistent trend of sports figures experiencing extreme falls from grace, going quickly from hero to goat. Will these recent sports figures forever tarnish their careers and legacies by their one time actions? As history has shown, not necessarily…….
Kobe Bryant, Michael Vick, and Ray Lewis bounced back from their run-ins with the law, earning back some endorsement deals and acclaim for their sports performances from many fans. Bill Belichick recovered from the Spygate scandal and has the Patriots back in the Superbowl this year. In the case of Ryan Braun, baseball fans might be a little less forgiving because Major League Baseball and steroid usage has become so synonymous. Sam Hurd is facing serious criminal drug charges and Lawrence Taylor dodged a bullet receiving a sentence of six months probation for his sexual acts with prostitute. Like Braun both of them will probably find it difficult to recover from these criminal acts in the court of popular culture. Unfortunately, Joe Paterno will not be alive to see if his reputation will recover, but I feel his reputation as a coach supersedes recent events. Joe Paterno did so much for the game of football and shaped the lives of so many college athletes, that past few months of allegations should not tarnish all he meant college football for over forty years. While his recent passing saddened an entire community, Joe Paterno and his legacy will now truly be able to rest in peace.
Shana White is a blog contributor for Gold Star Games.