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08/29/2012

Book review: "Paterno" should have been shelved for 3 to 5 years

Play_e_paternobook_gb1_400I have never met Joe Posnanski, but I felt bad for him. After spending months and months and months living in State College and having nearly unfettered access to the Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno to write his ultimate biography the story arc went a place he could never have imagined.

After the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke last fall, Posnanski preached patience and not to be in a hurry to condemn JoePa. Both Posnanski and Simon and Schuster should have followed that advice and just shelved the 378-page bio that was recently released.

I am guessing money had been spent, too many plans had been made, too many interviews completed, too many pages written and the business part of it had to go for the return.

It was too soon to write a Joe Paterno bio because only about 40 or so pages are what people want to read right now. Some of the highlights from the "fall":

* Right before the end, JoePa had far fewer friends than even he realized. He really had stayed too long. A lot more people in and around State College were just tired of Joe, who simply refused to retire for years. Since 2004 he had "lost" Penn State's board because he refused to resign.

* Posnanski recretes the scene of the Paternos on Nov. 9, 2011 in their kitchen when JoePa, his son Scott and a crisis manager met to release a statement about the Sandusky ordeal. JoePa argued about the accuracy of the statement that he came to work every day.

* Scott Paterno was ahead of the severity of this long before his father. He knew when the Sandusky story broke his father was going to be fired.

* In one of the final interviews with Posnanski, JoePa said: "(The criticism) really doesn't matter. It really doesn't. I know what I tried to do. Maybe everybody will see that in time. Maybe they won't. Maybe they will judge me by what I tried to do. Maybe they won't. What difference does it make? I just hope there is justice for the victims."

Joe+Paterno+FILE+Joe+Paterno+Announces+Retirement+YvEyUeLwqhil* On page 361, Posnanski writes he told JoePa near the end of his life that he should have done more; that, right or wrong, people expected more.

Posnanski's work and original interviews about the man are not worthless, but it is all too soon for a proper context of this man's life. Too much of this reads like another sports hero worship book; about a man who revered his father, about a man who was a driven workaholic and a man who was simply incapable of backing down.

Right now, who cares if Al Davis wanted to Joe Pa to coach the Oakland Raiders?
Who cares if JoePa didn't operate without a contract, or that it was Bear Bryant who told him to make sure to get 200 free tickets in the deal because they buy a lot of favors.
It does not feel right to read about the time when JoePa privately wondered years ago whether he should even be coaching football. 

Clearly, Posnanski liked and was charmed by the man, as so many were. Clearly, he could not believe what was eventually revealed. But when the Sandusky scandal broke as well as the coverup, all of those cute and inspiring anecdotes don't feel so cute or inspiring any more.

They may never. Now was not the time to try to write the definitive JoePa book. 

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com
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Comments

richard hess

So why don't you write it hero?

Truth to Power

Posnanski's book should be required reading for every American.

Paterno was an authentic hero who was destroyed by a mob of cowards who transferred their own faults onto an innocent man.

His legacy will remain intact. Truth cannot be extinguished.

Power to the People

Paterno should have done more. What happend wasn't his fault but he should have done more. God bless the victims.

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