Customer Reviews: The Lion in Autumn: A Season with Joe Paterno and Penn State Football
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on November 16, 2005
As a Penn State freshman and one who grew up hearing of Joe Paterno only infrequently, this book was a satisfying and appropriate introduction to the living legend Head Coach of Penn State football. On the forieth anniversary of his position as Head Coach, and his 55th year as a Penn State coach, it is fitting that Fitzpatrick's book be published now.

With the Nittany Lions back in position to possibly even play in the Rose Bowl (and even if not the Rose Bowl, definitely some type of bowl game), assuming Penn State beats Michigan State this weekend to capture our second Big Ten title and Bowl Championship Series bid. With "Happy Valley" happy again and our Nittany Lions ranked #4 in the nation with what should have been a perfect 10-0 season thus far, had it not been for poor officiating in the Oct. 15 game at Michigan, this text highlights Paterno's career up to this point for anyone interested - and everyone in State College should be.

Although this is not an "official" biography and even though the author failed to secure more than one personal meeting with Paterno himself, the book is still a fascinating read due to the vast amount of background material Fitzpatrick was able to glean off various other sources and accounts.

It's a fast, fascinating and if nothing else, satisfying read. Pick up your copy now if you haven't already. Joe Paterno is still king of Penn State football, even as he turns 79 this December. It's time people got to know the man of character, morals and determination again.
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on March 21, 2014
The best thing I can say about this book is that, briefly, it changed my mind about Paterno. As someone who went to college in Pennsyvania, I've always been put off by the patronizing tone of Penn Staters and JoePa, the personification of the Penn State mindset that State College is the last bastion of small-town purity in a sinful world. (Barf.) Fitzpatrick, as always, did a great job of getting into the wrinkles of Paterno and actually making him more sympathetic in my eyes.

Then Sandusky happened, and I was reminded the whole operation is just as false and corrupt as I'd always believed.
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on March 16, 2014
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on August 25, 2007
One of the great joys of Penn State football fandom is reading books about Coach Paterno and his program. As both a fan and a reader, any disappointment I had with this one was chiefly due to the limited access given to the author. After a nine-loss season in 2003 that marked the nadir of precipitous competitive slide, and an increasing number of off-field incidents, Coach Paterno was understandably guarded -- even abandoning a longstanding tradition of meeting with reporters over cocktails the night before game day. (Stiffing reporters in this fashion was probably an unwise political move that helped to contribute to the "JoePa Must Go" sentiment.)

What then is a writer to do? One approach could have been to chronicle the growing division within the Penn State community -- former players, alumni, students, and the media -- over the tough times in Happy Valley, using a few colorful and outspoken characters as a catalyst for that division.

Instead, Mr. Fitzpatrick delivers a fairly straightforward chronicle of the 2005 season's aspirations and disappointments. He does an adept job for those readers who may not be familiar with the programs history, but for those readers who are the chapters on glories past provide no new insight and interrupts the narrative of the current season.

Penn State's decline was primarily attributable to lackluster recruiting that produced players unable to compete effectively in the Big Ten, and Mr. Fitzpatrick is spot on when he writes that Paterno was mindful of this: "Other teams had more talent than Penn State. But to admit that too often in public was to demean his players.... [He] understood that the quickest solution to the Nittany Lions' troubles would be to search harder and more selectively for talent." (p. 287)

Once again, Coach Paterno's refusal to publicly contemplate life after football is highlighted, where is prospective retirement activity has changed over the years from collecting stamps to cutting grass. With the almost immediate death of Alabama's Bear Bryant after his retirement, Mr. Paterno is quite candid about his deep seated fears: "I'm alive. I don't want to die. Football keeps me alive." (p. 276) This outlook is quite tragic and perplexing, given his successes off the field as an educator, philanthropist, community leader and family patriarch.

In short, this volume does not quite rise to the level of incisiveness of Ken Denlinger's "For the Glory" or Coach Paterno's decades-old autobiography, which is in desperate need of an update. But it reads quickly and provides and admirable journalistic account of Happy Valley's darkest days in the Paterno era.
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on December 29, 2005
This is a must read for anyone interested in understanding what leadership is all about. In a profession where winning is everything and a world where loyality and tradition are no longer valued, this book chronicles what happens to a highly successful Division 1A football coach when he is no longer winning games.

This book was written before the successful 2005 season for the Penn State football program and Joe Paterno being named AP Coach of the year on his 79th Birthday! All the more reason to read.

I think this book is an inspiration for Oldies everywhere. Many people who experience what Joe Paterno went through in the Autumn of their careers, will identify with the choices that he faced when he was no longer valued and respected after a long and successful career.

In this world of Free Agency, Joe Paterno is a throw back. This book reminds us that Values, Principles, Tradition, and Loyalty are what really matter.....even in today's world.
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on January 9, 2012
This book was a great read. It is an inspring book on leadership while telling the story of one of the most legendary college football coaches of all time. Aside from being a great and accomplishing coach, we also read about the passion and effort Joe Paterno put into making Penn State one of the most respectable college institutions in the country. It is through his tireless devotion that Penn State has one of the best football programs in the country while maintaining one of the highest graduation rates as well.

I highly enjoyed reading the historical flashbacks in Paternos career. It gave me a glimpse of who he was and how ambitious of a leader he was. It showed how he cared for his students/players and how he cared for the institution in which he represented. This drove him to become the selfless legend that he is today. What was a little less enjoyable were the chapters on the week to week football games of the season being discussed. I found myself skimming quickly through those chapters. In addition, I was a bit disappointed that the season chosen was the 2004 season which resulted in a losing season. A sequel should have been written the next year as history shows that the Lions bounced back and had a great season.

Overall, this was a great book as it teaches us a great deal of leadership qualities. In a commercial age where many leaders are driven by money and ego, it is nice for a change to read about a humble leader who cared only about winning and achieving success on a year to year basis with the same team/school for over four decades.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in being inspired and motivated.
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on October 28, 2005
It is fall : time for college football, books about college football and biographies about legendary dead coaches like "The Last Coach: A Life of Paul Bear Bryant" by Allen Barra. An exception is "The Lion In Autumn" about a legendary living coach, Joe Paterno. Entering his 40th season as head coach of the Nittany Lions, Coach Paterno began as an assistant in 1950 and succeeded Rip Engle after his retirement following the 1965 season.

Mr. Fitzpatrick covers in passing a half century of coaching at a single institition while focusing on the disastrous 4-7 campaign last year. The author is a sportswriter at the Phildelphia Inquirer who covered the 2004 season from afar (in a buried footnote, he acknowledges that he spoke personally to Coach Paterno only once). Mr. Fitzpatrick synthesizes existing source materials into this book which is a quick read.

This account is not the definative story of Joe Paterno (which would be hard as the Nittany Lions has rebounded into a top 20 team once again) but merely an introduction to the man. The definative biography of the man who has won two national championships in major upsets (1982 against Georgia & Hershall Walker and 1986 against Miami & Vinny Testaverde) would be twice as long as "The Lion In Autumn" and is yet to be written.
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on May 12, 2013
The only thing holding this book back is its author. Not very well written or researched. It's okay for just a simple read.
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on February 2, 2006
ok, get past the fact that this is a book written by a sports writer, and understand there will be one or two malaprops and one or two missed typos. it's actually fairly well written. more importantly, it gives us something rather unusual: an even-handed look at joe paterno, and an even-handed retrospective of the program he has created. it's hard to find- so often we see bland - and blind- praise; other times, we see negative press from those with the opposite agenda. this book gets it right, and it's a must-read for anyone who considers himself a fan of penn state football.
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on May 21, 2008
The book "The Lion in Autumn:A Season with Joe Paterno and Penn State Football" is a good book to be read by a Penn State football fan. The book takes you through the Nittany Lions 2004 season where they finished the disapointing season at 4-7. The book travels through the rough season with an inside look at Penn State football. Week by week the book takes you in depth into what happened during the 2004 season. The book goes in chronological order game after game with recollections of Nittany Lion football pasts along the way. At the end of the book there is an afterword about the Lions next season whre they went 11-1 and finished 3rd in the country. I recommend "The Lion In Autumn" to any Penn State football fan who is looking for something to read.
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