Jon Tevlin’s column isn’t as bad as the headline — “Taking some lessons from Peterson’s fall” — but I think we need to back up and look at how we are treating the Adrian Peterson Scandal.
Most, but far from all, people would say Adrian Peterson crossed a line from discipline to abuse when he whipped his son with a stick. Actually…I’m not sure we can even say most people agree. It is sounding more and more like a “I would never do that” claim from people who have done that or something similar.
Adrian Peterson doesn’t need my support and I am not his defender, but he really is becoming the whipping boy of his own mistakes. I suppose that’s the way we want justice to work. After all, in our culture doesn’t justice involve some revenge, maybe just a touch?
And that brings me back to my complaint of a few days ago. The story about Adrian Peterson and his son has become a national stage to talk about almost everything but what happened. We have turned ourselves into self-righteous victims and in all the glory of a classical Greek tragedy our hero has fallen.
But there’s a catch to the way this is playing out. In classical Greek tragedy the hero makes a mistake that he never would have made had he known what he was doing. Oedipus would not have killed his father and slept with his mother unless he were lost in the wilderness, met a muse who warned him (that he disregards), and then later learns of his horrible mistake. The tragic flaw is hubris.
Peterson? Well, he still seems to think he did the right thing — although I’ll bet he’s rethinking it — and so do many of his cultural peers. So to call this Adrian Peterson’s fall is plain wrong. It doesn’t excuse him from the criticism and debate surrounding discipline versus debate but I think we trying to make something of Adrian Peterson, his behavior, and our society that is not there.
Again…he isn’t a scapegoat, he is (excuse the apparent pun) a whipping boy, quite literally a whipping boy, I argue. And what is a whipping boy? He is a surrogate, one that endures the punishment of someone more privileged.
Thousands and thousands of children are abused, many where “discipline” has little to do with good or bad. Now that this problem is thrust (again) into the spotlight on the shoulders of a broader social scandal (our beloved NFL is in disarray) we are supposed to think we care? We care why? We care because we have a whipping boy. Adrian Peterson.