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John Edwards Outclasses Rick Pitino, Really!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Just when you thought John Edwards would slink off into ignominy, he stands up, throws off his jellyfish ways, and becomes a man. Ironically, John Edwards could teach Rick Pitino a thing or two about manhood.

News reports indicate that Edwards will publicly announce soon that he is indeed the biological father of 18-month old Frances, the child borne by Rielle Hunter, his former campaign staffer. This entire saga has revealed huge, embarrassing gaps in the character of John Edwards. From first denying that he had any relationship at all with Hunter; to a key staffer's lying that he, not Edwards, was the father of Frances; to the revelation that Edwards' team financially supported Hunter for months; to Edwards' consistent denials of being the father, the former senator has missed no opportunity to play the louse.

However, with this public declaration of paternity, it appears that Edwards will now step up and do the right thing. Reports claim that he has told his wife, Elizabeth, that he will move Rielle and Frances into his own family's neighborhood so that he can play an active role in the rearing of Frances as his own child. Clearly, this news would infuriate any wife, and likely his other children as well, but Edwards is finally doing the right thing.

In the celebrity culture in which Edwards has basked, he now seems to have learned that this is not all about him. In a culture where human beings are treated like disposable diapers, to be used and then discarded at will, John Edwards is giving indications that he has learned that this really is all about Frances. Frances did not ask for all this. She was simply conceived, and then arrived in the world. She deserves to know both of her parents, regardless of the personal challenges it presents to John, Elizabeth, or Rielle. Frances is a person in her own right, and as an infant, she is entitled to the love of the people who brought her into the world.

It feels odd to say, but it is true: Good for John Edwards! His actions reveal slowly-developing moral growth in his character to discover a truly pro-life position. Life and the world do not entirely revolve around the sexual decisions of adults. Each human being has dignity and deserves certain things, including the love of her parents, albeit two imperfect, adulterous parents.

Contrast the behavior of John Edwards with that of Rick Pitino, national championship basketball coach and author of Success is a Choice. The news has been filled to capacity with the startling revelation that an intoxicated Pitino had a one-night stand (on a restaurant floor no less) in 2003 with a woman, who came back to him two weeks later to claim she was pregnant. She asked for money to have an abortion and said she had no health insurance. Pitino gave her $3000 and claims to have said it was for health insurance. The woman had an abortion. That much has been proven.

In other words, given the opportunity to choose between life and death, Pitino chose death. Given the opportunity to face the same kind of public humiliation that Edwards is now enduring, Pitino sacrificed a child, and took a pass. Edwards wrestled to come to terms with what he had done while Pitino simply chose to move on as quickly, and as discretely, as possible.

The contrast will go largely unnoticed in the whirlwind of the American news cycle, but do not miss the lesson and the revelation available here for anyone willing to pause and absorb the data. One man took the road less traveled and has spent two years coming to terms with the consequences of poor moral judgment. Another man chose the illusory quick fix.

John Edwards made a large mistake, a mistake that has cratered his public life and a good portion of the trust he and his wife have shared. Edwards denied, denied, and denied, for close to two years. He even broke the news in small increments to his own wife. It took time for the former presidential candidate to come to terms with his own flaws and their consequences. Ultimately, however, it appears that he has done just that. Over months and months of reflection, pain, and public shame, John Edwards appears to have arrived at the difficult and challenging truth: that he is an imperfect human who has made a tragic mistake, and that he is the one who should pay most of all for that mistake.

As a result, the life of Frances will be better and more stable. Edwards' own children will learn that actions have consequences, often painful ones, and that a man stands by his actions and faces the truth. In the end, a number of the parties involved in this Edwards/Hunter debacle will actually grow in character and integrity. We will all have learned that coming to terms with one's mistakes often takes time.

Sadly, no such lesson or growth will occur in the Pitino situation. Rather than reflecting on a lapse in judgment, and learning from it, Pitino acted as quickly and privately as possible to “erase” the mistake, as if that could actually occur. Frances will thrive, while Pitino's child will never receive even a name. It appears that Pitino hid from the truth, hid from himself, and hid from his own family, until the circumstances forced him to confront his own character six full years after the fact.

Worse still, because Pitino is a proven, winning coach, in a state where basketball literally trumps life itself, the news story has quickly faded from view. The ramifications of his poor moral judgment have been largely confined to the issue of whether he will keep his job. Of course, he will. Few, if any, observers are noting that, when given the opportunity to stand up and be a man, Pitino chose the road most traveled. He paid for the mistake to go away, chose to pretend that the mistake had never happened, and moved on without confronting himself and his own actions. He could learn a lot from John Edwards.

A person's moral growth occurs over time. Growth requires struggle, faith, and brutal self-discovery. In the end, pain can be your good friend, a teacher unlike any other. John Edwards now knows that. Sadly, the choice for abortion unnaturally truncates that growth process and stunts the soul's formation. Worst of all, it ends another human soul's existence before being given a chance. We can only hope that Rick Pitino will finally face that truth, and take a long look in the mirror. If he wants some help, John Edwards will likely have a lot of free time on his hands to assist in the process.

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