It would have been a great story if the Penn State Nittany Lions had beaten the Nebraska Cornhuskers today. After all the events of the past week, a nice win certainly would have helped the healing process.
It was not to be. Just as they have all season, the Nittany Lions struggled with their offense all afternoon and lost 17-14. The first game in the post-Joe Paterno era will go into the books as an "L."
There was, however, one Paterno on hand to see it all unfold. Jay Paterno, Penn State's quarterback coach and passing game coordinator, is still a member of the Nittany Lions' coaching staff and will presumably remain a member for some time.
Typically, you'll find Jay Paterno up in the coaching boxes, which is where his famed father had taken to during games this season. But on Saturday, Jay was down on the sidelines. To boot, he was garbed in one of his dad's coats.
No doubt you're aware that some people have a problem with displays of support for Joe Paterno, no matter what form they take. However, Jay's homage to his father should be considered harmless and totally excusable. Indeed, there's nothing wrong with a son making it clear that he is on his father's side.
Jay made that even clearer in a postgame interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi. He asked predictable questions about the mood of the game and things that led to Penn State's loss, and Paterno provided calm, well thought-out answers. When Rinaldi finally asked him about his dad, that's when Jay's emotions overwhelmed him.
"Dad, I wish you were here," said Paterno, noticeably choked up. "We love you. Thank you."
Then he walked off.
They may not look like much in print, but there was a certain profundity in Jay's words. Given the wide array of circumstances at play in Happy Valley and in the Paterno family, Rinaldi basically asked a question that words could only answer to an extent.
Make no mistake, Rinaldi was fishing for a reaction. He got one.
Fans who want nothing more than to condemn Joe Paterno whenever they can are not going to be moved by Jay Paterno's reaction. Sympathy for an old man who allegedly harbored a pedophile for close to a decade must not be tolerated, no matter who it's coming from.
Admittedly, I am also skeptical of anyone who would show support for Joe Pa. But Jay Paterno wasn't showing support for a man. He was showing support for his father. Any of us would do the same thing in his shoes.
You're going to see plenty of video clips featured in highlights from this game, and that's likely going to be the case for years to come. The Nittany Lions may have lost, but this is a defining game in the program's history.
Likewise, Jay Paterno's postgame reaction is the game's defining moment.
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