I’m happy for Adam “Pacman” Jones. He’s finally encountered someone who cares about him as a human being. That someone is Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, who just suspended Jones again for his latest run-in with the law. Up to this point, the people in Pacman’s life have mostly been enablers and excuse-makers.
I don’t know Jones’ whole story, but from what I understand, he, like many others, had a pretty rough upbringing. In his case, though, he is an exceptional athlete, which can actually work against someone in our society when it comes to character formation. If you’re a good athlete there are a lot of enablers out there--coaches, team owners, schools, fans--who will let you get away with bad behavior. All you’ve got to do is show up on a Friday night or a weekend afternoon and help your team to victory. There are some coaches and owners out there who won’t stand for that, but by and large many of them are more than happy to use a player with bad character as long as he produces for the team. The sad thing is that most of those players never figure out they’re being used. And once their careers are over, all the athleticism squeezed out of them, the enablers disappear from the players’ life, out looking for the next star who can pack the stadium. Again, this is not true of all coaches or teams or schools, but it is true enough that it’s become expected in our society. The really great athletes stop being held accountable for bad behavior in middle school or junior high.
Fortunately for Pacman Jones, someone is standing up and saying, “that’s enough. You either figure out what is going on inside you that is causing you to destroy your life, or you won’t play in my league.” Good friends lovingly confront us when we’re about to do something stupid that will harm ourselves or someone else. Love is patient and kind but it also stands up sometimes and says, “I love you too much to watch you destroy your life.” The thing that is left for us to do is to pray for Adam Jones, that he will see his deep need, a need we all share, for a loving Savior who is full of the grace that changes lives.