Don’t worry. This is not going to be a “Joe Paterno’s Legacy” kind of post. But Joe Paterno’s Legacy is the context, here, because what we have here is a story about a Paterno running for public office in Pennsylvania.
Jay Paterno – son of Joe, who served as the Paterno family’s spokesman during the Jerry Sandusky scandal that cost the late Joe Paterno his job and a whole bunch of wins – is running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, it appears.
Under ordinary circumstances, being the son of a legendary football coach would give Paterno a political advantage. But these are not ordinary circumstances.
Paterno’s life ended two years ago after public disgrace. As you know, a longtime assistant of his, Jerry Sandusky, was accused and later convicted of sexually abusing a number of young boys, and an investigation by Penn State indicated Paterno may not have done all he could to put an end to Sandusky’s actions. The school fired Paterno and the NCAA vacated 111 of Paterno’s wins, with additional penalties against the football program itself. This, for a man once universally considered as virtuous as a football coach can possibly be
But that was the father, and this is the son.
Raise your hand if you know anything about Jay Paterno’s political ideology. For the record, he is a Democrat (Joe was a conservative), who worked as a surrogate speaker for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. Until it all fell apart at Penn State, he was an assistant coach under his father. Since then, most of his time in the public eye has been spent defending Joe’s name, but privately he now runs a nonprofit organization that fights malaria in Africa.
He is still, unavoidably, “Joe Paterno’s son.” Other than a party affiliation, he has no political record to speak of, and if you recognize his face, chances are it’s because of his dad in one way or another.
The passage of time will simplify Joe Paterno’s legacy; most people only get to be remembered for one thing, if they’re remembered at all. In the meantime, Jay Paterno’s reputation will grow in complexity and, perhaps, offer an indication about how Pennsylvania feels about his father.