The other JoePas.
November 23, 2011 9:05 AM   Subscribe

What other local gods are out there?

Reading and hearing stories about the Penn State pedophilia scandal have been very eye-opening. Previously, I had never heard of Joe Paterno, much less that he was basically the benevolent emperor of State College, PA.

He reminds me of Pablo "El Padron" Escobar and Mayor Richard J. Daley, certainly not in terms of his morality or viciousness, but in that:

- He had incredible power, locally.
- The local people revered him so deeply that they are inclined to forgive or excuse any wrongdoing of his, no matter how severe.

However, it seems like Paterno had far fewer detractors in his fiefdom than Daley or Escobar did in theirs. Amazingly, he's not a politician or gangster. So, he's closer to the platonic ideal of the local god than those two are.

What other figures are out there that hold this kind of intense local reverence and power? They don't have to have abused their influence over the local people, but I'm interested in reading about those that have demonstrated how much power they have.

I'm not looking for dictators of small countries or Scientologists or others that retain their power through intimidation and force. (If they initially gained it that way, though, they're not disqualified.) I want to hear about local gods that are loved - perhaps irrationally - by their people.
posted by ignignokt to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Marion Barry?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Providence's Buddy Cianci. It's not like it was a secret that he was a felon and involved in the mob, the people of Providence just love him anyway. It would not surprise me if he runs for mayor again when he's eligible (which he currently is because of his relatively recent felony conviction) and it would not surprise me if he won.
posted by brainmouse at 9:12 AM on November 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure he still enjoys that status, but Joe Arpaio seemed like the local deity of Maricopa County for a while.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:13 AM on November 23, 2011

You mean besides mathowie?

Another good sports example was Bobby Knight in Indiana, though he didn't have scandals, really.
posted by michaelh at 9:14 AM on November 23, 2011

Buddy Cianci the former mayor of Providence, RI who served two different decade long terms. He probably would have served the time in between if he hadn't had to resign because he was convicted of felony assault, but yes, the people of Providence forgave him and reelected him again, until he had was again convicted of a felony and forced to resign.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:16 AM on November 23, 2011

Good lord, Buddy Cianci. When the papers first broke the accusations that led to his first conviction, I watched from the rooftop of a downtown building, at dawn, as police cars followed the newspaper delivery truck, and threw the bundles of papers into the back of their cruisers.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:25 AM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mayor Michael Bloomberg perhaps? I mean, getting the term limits extended just so you can be mayor for the third time is kinda a big deal...
posted by Grither at 9:25 AM on November 23, 2011

Charleston, SC's Joe Riley, and in Athens, GA, coach Vince Dooley Other football coaches who enjoyed similar status in the past include Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes, among others.
posted by TedW at 9:32 AM on November 23, 2011

Don Young, Alaska's at-large representative since 1973? Doesn't quite fit the "reverence" category, but he's been such a reliable pork delivery guy for the state that Alaskan voters seem happy to look the other way at his patronage and nepotism.
posted by holgate at 9:32 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tom Menino in Boston. Been in office for almost 20 years. High approval. Maybe not a god, but he will stop being mayor only when he wants to.
posted by Hactar at 9:35 AM on November 23, 2011

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
posted by adamvasco at 9:47 AM on November 23, 2011

soory didn't read question properly though if you don't love him he'll probably have something very nasty done to you.
posted by adamvasco at 9:48 AM on November 23, 2011

Steve Jobs.
posted by empath at 9:50 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Joe Arpaio, Huey Long.
posted by empath at 9:53 AM on November 23, 2011

Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia.
posted by gudrun at 9:56 AM on November 23, 2011

What other figures are out there that hold this kind of intense local reverence and power?

Marion Barry has a base of unwavering supporters in DC's poor African-American neighborhoods, but he has never had anything like intense, general reverence. Even at the height of his power in the mid-to-late 80s, there were many, many Washingtonians who viewed him as corrupt, incompetent, and embarrassing.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:07 AM on November 23, 2011

Looking at it from the west coast, it seems like Charles Rangel has that kind of status in his congressional district, but I may be wrong about that.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:27 AM on November 23, 2011

Along the same lines as Joe Paterno, Mack Brown.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:48 AM on November 23, 2011

By "along the same lines" I mean a football coach that is pretty much revered in his local area/university. Not that he has been involved in some sort of child molestation scandal.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:49 AM on November 23, 2011

Up until recently and along the same vein as Paterno; FSU coach Bobby Bowden in Tallahassee. College football and Bobby were a big deal even at the state legislative offices.
posted by ruevian at 10:52 AM on November 23, 2011

Barry Switzer in Oklahoma.
posted by Quonab at 11:35 AM on November 23, 2011

Any high school football coach in Texas fits this criteria.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:43 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bobby Knight had scandals but they kept them hushed up. Boy, were there incidents.
posted by provoliminal at 12:27 PM on November 23, 2011

Warren Buffett
posted by JPD at 12:34 PM on November 23, 2011

If you are a white person in Edgefield, SC, Strom Thurmond is a god.
posted by TedW at 1:14 PM on November 23, 2011

Bobby Bowden in Tallahassee. Although if you are in Tallahassee, you probably just call him Coach.
posted by zoetrope at 1:16 PM on November 23, 2011

Definitely Bob Knight.

Mike Ditka in Chicago.

Brett Favre in Green Bay, while he was a member of the Packers.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:30 PM on November 23, 2011

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