“Paterno”, the lengthy Joe Posnanski tome that’s under heavy scrutiny was just squashed by a heavy scrutinizer. Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock lowers the boom on Posnanski, declaring the book unwittingly serves as a cautionary tale about what happens when “a coach and a writer sacrifice their integrity one compromised decision at a time.” So it’s not as likely to command as much money on eBay as this book, then.
With the exception of Posnanski’s interaction with former Penn State fullback Don Abbey, the book reads like a series of cleverly written blog postings buttressed by brief telephone interviews. Posnanski, the storyteller without ego according to his passionate band of sycophants, is center stage throughout “Paterno,” most often without good reason. He delights in explaining how inconsequential figures in the book acquired nicknames. He showboats, sharing nerdy, pointless and colorful background stories on Herschel Walker and Bear Bryant. Posnanski dances and distracts because he has little that is new or enlightening to share about his subject, Joe Paterno.
Based on the content of the book, Posnanski barely had any more access to Paterno and Penn State football than the typical Penn State beat writer. All the dialogue with Paterno reads as though it transpired during a couple of rushed interviews after Penn State dismissed Paterno and the coach’s family realized it needed a biographer/stenographer to record Paterno’s rationalizations.
A self-righteous man doesn’t sacrifice integrity overnight. It happens methodically. It happens when his ambition concludes the calendar isn’t cooperating. A middle-aged sportswriter might still dream of being as famous as Mitch Albom. An aging coach might want to be as revered and beloved as John Wooden. Paterno, Sandusky and Mike McQueary were on a collision course for three decades. Paterno’s vanity and insecurity — the ingredients necessary to play deaf, dumb and blind to Sandusky’s heinous perversion — were on full display when he went after President Nixon, when Paterno first publicly exposed he cared too deeply what others thought of his team and its accomplishments.
“President Nixon knows more about college football than he does Watergate,” Paterno famously quipped.
President Nixon might retort that Joe Paterno knows more about Barry Switzer and Jackie Sherrill —coaches Paterno smugly accused of breaking NCAA rules —than Jerry Sandusky, a 30-year assistant.