After a beautiful friend of mine reached the most awful point in a life filled with depression, it was as though I had been punched in the stomach when word reached me she had taken her life. In the days that followed and I wandered in the hollowness that always accompanies such a tragedy, a pastor told me he had been to a similar funeral once and the question was asked, “Are you going to remember this person for the worst 15 minutes of her life or for the countless years of goodness and triumph she provided to all of us?”
The other day I felt like I had been punched in the stomach again. It wasn’t because of your bone-headed decision to solicit sex from an undercover female cop but because we cannot stand silent and allow you to throw away decades of goodness and wonder that you have provided to boys and girls throughout our city. Admittedly, I hardly know you. Oh, I’d try to speak if I saw you out somewhere but the better deal is that I know all about you after watching your colossal ability to teach children, be it from a classroom textbook or in front of a soccer net.
The biggest reason for this letter is to remind you of the very first thing you teach the youngest soccer player. “When you fall down, leap to your feet and get back in the game! You can brush yourself off later!” That is the great virtue of sports, to get back on your feet and resume the game.
When I read you had just resigned from the Baylor School faculty I thought I was going to be sick. While I feel certain you have never been quite as ashamed or embarrassed, my view has been self-ridicule never lasts long if you’ll simply shut up and discuss it with no one other than psychological professionals. You will no doubt remember what auto baron Henry Ford told the media many years ago when he was caught in an indiscretion: “I don’t complain and I don’t explain.”
While it is imperative for you to hold the ones you love the most (and have hurt the worst) together right now, counselling can really be healing and beneficial if you let it. Let yourself accept forgiveness, too. You are already a winner and, while this sounds blasé, it is also very true – turn your scar into a star! Figure out ways you can volunteer to help the women victims who turn to prostitution in desperation, only to fall deeper into a seedy quagmire of drugs and pimps and even death. You have the skills to save someone’s life!
Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Coach inner-city kids on Saturday morning. Call Orchard Knob Elementary and see if you can join the reading program. Become a “foster dad” to some boys who have never had a Dad, much less one who could kick from the corner. Redeem yourself, my friend, and no one else will even have a vote.
Jimmy, I am very pointedly avoiding reciting your sports records, your athletic titles and championships, and your accomplishments. Too often we hear that “if he weren’t a great coach they’d treat him like the rest of us.” No, what you did was wrong and you’ll be able to straighten that out “like the rest of us.” But – say -- have you ever noticed the very ones who accuse athletes and coaches of “favoritism” when the great among us get in trouble have – in reality – never seen their own picture on Page One? Shun the Legion of the Miserable.
My most dreaded thought right now is one of you ducking around the back of the house when your in-laws come by or slinking around at a soccer match instead of sitting like a gentleman in the stands. You are still Jimmy Weekley. Remind yourself of that constantly and, instead of never living it down, live up to it. You have earned your good name and it is much bigger than one incident of stupidity, as brazen as it may have been.
I refuse to make light of any crime or disobeying the law but it seems to me you have just been handed a “yellow card” (a soccer warning) and it may be the best you’ve ever had to swallow. The police will attest you did not have actual relations with any prostitute and, after seeing your mug on the nightly news, the safest bet in Las Vegas would be that you’ll never get yourself in a scrap like this again. And when you tell this horror story years from now to your church group, a lot of others will learn how to avoid the pain you are going through.
That said, I believe the best hire in the region as either a coach or as a teacher is you. I know many who would write you a recommendation right now based on what you have done to teach, coach and mentor their sons and daughters. But, wait! I have an even better idea and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I want you to dwell on it.
How about talking to the people who know you better than anyone outside your family? How about calling Baylor back and saying you had a mental breakdown (that would be easy to prove) and that it continued until after you submitted your anguished resignation. Tell them you have since thought about the school motto: “Amat Victoria Curam” and that you believe, deep in your heart, “Victory Loves Care.”
Assure them you are actively pursuing emotional and spiritual help. You tell them that right now, at the lowest moment in your life, you would like “one more chance” to coach and guide the greatest kids in the world. Jimmy, I’ll write you a recommendation if you like. Get back in the game, coach. Focus on the years that you have won, not the one afternoon you lost.
We’ll dust you off later.