Sports

Joe Posnanski's Book on Joe Paterno: What Do We Really Know?

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A biography of Joe Paterno will hit bookshelves Tuesday, Aug. 21. The author of Paterno is Sports Illustrated senior writer Joe Posnanski, who was allowed to spend the 2011 season in State College to work on the book. Speculation is rampant as to what the book contains.

Can JoePo salvage JoePa’s tarnished image?

Clearly, the story Posnanski began telling changed along the way with the shocking revelations of the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal that not only happened under Paterno’s nose, but because he turned a blind eye and kept his mouth shut.

Posnanski has provided some clues as to the light he casts the longtime Penn State University football coach in. Immediately in the wake of Paterno’s firing, the writer was speaking at a class at the university, and was quoted as saying, “I think [Paterno] is a scapegoat,” and that he was “heartbroken” by the way the coach’s family was treated.

But Posnanski doesn’t remember it that way. Either that or he’s trying to rewrite history. In a recent essay for USA Today, he claims that he was accused of “mindlessly defending Joe Paterno.” He added, “All I had wanted to say was that we needed time to find out what was real and what wasn’t.”

The project was originally titled “The Grand Experiment,” and was scheduled for a Father’s Day release, which sounds like a recipe for the sort of gushing, two-dimensional, hero-worshipping bio that come out every year at that time in the inspirational section for grads and dads. Still, with enough new information about Paterno’s moral strong points – or at least, sympathetic explanations for his moral failures – Posnanski might be able to mitigate the self-inflicted damage the man did.

In all his time “investigating” the man behind the myth, with his unprecedented access, did Posnanski never stumble upon Paterno’s darker side? His knee-jerk reaction, calling Paterno a scapegoat suggests he was probably blinded by his own idolatry.

Granted, no one knew the dirty secret that Paterno kept – that he was the silent accomplice of pedophile Jerry Sandusky – but shouldn’t a journalist, working to uncover the truth about a man so legendary he passes a statue of himself on his way to work, ought to have glimpsed something in that person that would give him pause? Shouldn’t he have considered that if he blindly rushed to Paterno’s aid, he might end up looking like some sort of lackey?

If JoePo isn’t in the tank for JoePa, he’s certainly as good at keeping secrets.