The Stink of Foolishness

Ecclesiastes 10:1 popped into my head this morning. And I’m really glad it did.

I was reading news articles and commentaries on Jim Tressel’s resignation as head coach of Ohio State University’s football program. Tressel is accused of repeatedly lying to NCAA officials when he said he knew nothing about a couple dozen Ohio State players receiving cash payouts, getting discounts on new cars, selling football memorabilia and getting tattooed by a drug trafficker. Tressel originally was suspended and fined $250,000, but the story has legs. Tressel resigned on Memorial Day.

Tressel’s football accomplishments are superb. But, like Ohio State coach Woody Hayes before him, Tressel may first be remembered for his terrific failure. The Hayes incident—in which Hayes punched an opposing player in a 1978 bowl game—was a rapid-fire moment of foolishness. By 1978, Hayes had been coaching at Ohio State for 27 years and had amassed an immense record of accomplishment. But what's the first thing I think of whenever Woody Hayes is mentioned? Right, it’s the closing minutes of that game. It’s Hayes’ punch to the throat of that Clemson player who intercepted a pass along the Ohio State sideline. The memory of Hayes' accomplishments is dimmed by that foolish moment.

This morning, writers are quoting Shakespeare and a few others for insight into the Tressel story. One writer mocked a Tressel quote out of the book The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life, published in 2008. It seems Tressel wrote that, The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.

Right, it could take an hour, but it also could take a moment, or a couple of days or weeks or months. Decisions made in advance can easily and quickly lead to a moment of crushing destruction. It only takes a couple of bad decisions to reap a big ruin. And it can happen to anyone.

A couple of friends and I used to remind one another that you’re only two or three bad decisions away from taking a sledge-hammer to your life . . . to your relationship with the Lord, to your marriage, to your legacy as a father, to your reputation, to your future in ministry.

I’m really glad that Ecclesiastes 10:1 ran through my mind this morning as I read about Tressel’s sad fall. I take that as an indicator that the Lord’s warnings and the Lord’s ways are close. The Word hidden in the heart. What an immeasurable gift from the gracious Lord. What a great thing to remember on the day after Memorial Day.