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The Family Room by Michelle Martin

August 16, 2009

When heroes fall

The picture came off the wall with a ripping sound, the kind that happens when the paint is coming off with the masking tape.

Frank was none too gentle when he pulled the portrait of Blackhawks star Patrick Kane down, minutes after hearing that the 20-yearold winger had been arrested on charges that included second-degree robbery of a cabdriver.

Frank loves the Blackhawks. This past year, Kane wasn’t his favorite player; that honor went to 21-year-old Jonathan Toews. But Kane and the Hawks’ other young players are a big draw to my aspiring hockey player. When one of them messes up, it rocks his world a little bit.

When I heard about Kane’s arrest, my first reaction was to wonder if I could keep Frank from hearing about it. That’s a parent’s instinct, I think, to want to protect his or her kids from everything that isn’t right. We want the world to be a place where people live happily ever after.

But I knew that would be impossible; Frank reads the newspaper, at least the sports section, most every day, and this is a story that will go on for some time.

So instead, it turned in to one of those “teachable moments.” First, we had to clear up a little bit about the U.S. justice system. Although Kane and his 21-year-old cousin had been arrested and charged, they were not in jail and would not have to go to jail unless they are found guilty. Under the law, they are to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

According to initial reports, the two young men punched and choked the cab driver because he was short 20 cents in change when they paid a $13.80 fare with $15. They were coming home after 4 a.m. from Buffalo. N.Y.’s nightclub district. As the days passed, more information came out: the driver may have locked them in the car, for fear that they wouldn’t pay. To me, that might explain the lack of a tip, at least.

But still, Kane, who is not yet of legal drinking age, put himself in a situation where it is hard to believe alcohol wasn’t involved. Frank already knows that it’s wrong for minors to drink alcohol, that it’s not good for developing brains and it’s against the law.

I’d be surprised if he ends up being found guilty of a felony or having to do any time in jail, but Kane’s lost something he’ll never get back. Frank, and thousands of kids like him, no longer look at him with eyes of innocence.

So what can he take from this? That everyone, even people he likes, even people who are usually good, sometimes does something bad, something they wish they could take back as soon as it is done. That there are consequences for those things, even if there is also forgiveness.

Frank gave me the picture from his wall and told me to hang onto it. He didn’t want to have it in his room just now, but he didn’t want to throw it away, either.

Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at [email protected].