Author: Tried to describe Paterno's real life

Joe Posnanski
Joe Posnanski
Posted: September 08, 2012

Joe Posnanski spent the final months of Joe Paterno's life examining the career of the longtime Penn State football coach, from when he created the Grand Experiment to when he was slammed for not doing enough to stop Jerry Sandusky from preying on young boys.

Posnanski, the author of Paterno, found the coach to be an "extremes guy," someone who generated love and hate from a wide cross-section.

"I went back and read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of stories written about him and it's unbelievable," Posnanski told a crowd Thursday night at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Montgomery Auditorium.

"Nobody on earth could live up to the level of these stories. It was every story about Joe Paterno being the greatest thing in sports, Joe Paterno being the Saint of Happy Valley. He thought it was ridiculous.

"He was never that. Nobody is. He was a tough guy. He wasn't an easy guy to be around. He had really good qualities and some not-so-good qualities. He was a human being. But he had that personality where you had to go to extremes with him, which I think is a big reason why he's been so vilified over the last few months."

Posnanski said the narrative on Paterno did not change after Nov. 5, the day Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 counts of child sexual abuse. The grand-jury report said Paterno was informed of an incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in the shower of the Lasch Football Building, but Paterno was not charged with wrongdoing because he followed policy and reported the incident to his superior, athletic director Tim Curley.

Posnanski said he wanted to write about a "real life" and thought he achieved that, even though some reviewers have panned the book by claiming he was too easy on Paterno.

"The negative is out there and I knew it would be and I understand it," he said. "I don't blame anybody for attacking. But I want people to really read the book. I was on a radio show in Philadelphia that lasted an hour and it was a very nice interview, but the host told me at the beginning that she only read the Sandusky chapter.

"Well, how can we have a real discussion about this man and his life if that's all you read? To me, if you've read the whole book and you come away thinking I was this or I was that, that's fine. But I think if you read the whole book you'll see what I was trying to do."

Posnanski said the deadline for submitting his manuscript was before the July 12 release of the Freeh report, so he was unable to discuss that in the book. He felt the report was incomplete because some of the principals in the Sandusky scandal - Curley, former vice president Gary Schultz, former assistant coach Mike McQueary, who told Paterno of Sandusky's assault - did not talk to the committee on the advice of their attorneys.

He said critics wondered why he did not wait to release his book but did not argue that the Freeh report should have waited until court cases involving Curley and Schultz were adjudicated.

"I don't mind criticism, but it does trouble me when people say this book never should have been written, or Joe Paterno doesn't deserve to have his voice heard," he said. "That bothers me a lot. That's not the journalism I know.

"I had all the quotes from Joe Paterno. I was the one person he really talked to about the issues involved. I thought this had to be heard and it had to be heard in a relatively timely way. That was important to me."

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or Follow @joejulesinq on Twitter.

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