The morning ritual is to sit down in the family room with a first cup of coffee, Mother Trib in my lap, the news on the tube and the two dogs back inside working over chewies next to me. On this day, the lead story in the Trib was the whacko board at Tampa International Airport, doing its best to ensure that Chief Executive Joe Lopano is well taken care of. This time, following two raises in one year, and another effort to give him another one, the idea was to put another $500,000 into his retirement fund. It makes you wonder what kind of Christmas party this guy must throw for his board. So far, the only one down there with enough grit to say this is ludicrous is Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Disgusted, I put down the Trib, took a swig of coffee and looked at the tube. Their lead story was the Rutgers basketball coach physically pushing his players around on the court while hollering obscenities and slurs.
To make it worse, all of this had been recorded and apparently witnessed months ago by not only the athletic director but possibly the president of the university. Probably like everyone else watching this, I immediately thought of Penn State and wondered why it is that universities seem to be the antithesis of what they are supposed to be about. The next story on the cable channel was the comeback of Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, who had just won a primary for a congressional seat. This guy, I’m sure you remember, is the one who told his staff, family and everyone else he would be hiking the Appalachian Trail when in fact he was hunkered down with his mistress in Argentina. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was being interviewed live on the cable show, where he was being fawned over by host Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle. I like Barnicle but still remember that he left his old job as columnist for the Boston Globe when several of his columns were called out as having been plagiarized. Somehow he didn’t seem to be the guy who should be talking about ethics and values, although it apparently doesn’t matter in South Carolina, where Sanford had an easy win. Listen, I certainly don’t have anything against second chances. If we didn’t have them, most of us, including me, would be doomed. If we didn’t have second chances the prisons would be even more loaded. But don’t you think second chances ought to be a little tougher to come by when you are in positions of leadership or example? Imagine the impact the Rutgers basketball coach had on so many impressionable lives, who must have come to believe the best way to develop character and a winning team was to be an obscenity-spewing bully. Or what about the administrators who turned blind eyes? Turning a blind eye or punishing whistleblowers seems to be the way things are done not just in government but in … well you name it. Why did the South Carolina voters go for a man as shameless as the former governor? Were they impressed at the chutzpa behind his Appalachian Trail yarn? I believe in second chances, but I also think we need to spend a little more time questioning our values, as well as those we allow to lead and teach, and have the willingness to hold them to a standard.