From Publishers Weekly
While the title of this book may be overstated, its subtitle is certainly understated: veteran sports writer Fitzpatrick's account is more a biography of Paterno-and thus a biography of Penn State football as it is known today-related through the ups and downs of the 2004 season, the team's fourth consecutive losing season. Chapters effortlessly breeze from anecdotes from Paterno's boyhood to the Nittany Lions glory days of the 1980s to the action on the field in 2004, united by a central problem facing Paterno and the Penn State community: what do you do when a legend falters? Now in his eighties and after a long stretch of winning seasons earned by a unique combination of gridiron savvy and personal, educational and spiritual guidance (an Ivy League graduate, Paterno is known to recite Shakespeare at pep rallies), "JoePa" hadn't mustered a winning season-much less a strong bowl berth or championship-in four years, and several star players had been involved in behavior scandals. Could the school and the rabid alumni community continue to support Paterno now that the bar was set so high? Fitzpatrick doesn't portend to answer these questions, but readers will find hints of optimism in his portrait of Paterno and the inner workings of college football.
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Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (two national championships, four coach-of-the-year awards, 31 bowl appearances) is arguably the most successful, if not the best, coach in the game--which gives a certain contrasting drama to the dismal record his teams have put up over the last five seasons. Fitzpatrick, a Philadelphia Inquirer
covered the Nittany Lions all last season, transcribing Paterno's almost-fanatical obsession to find a way to win, the building storm of criticism Paterno received from alumni and sportswriters, the players' ups and downs, and even the modicum of salvation the team achieved at season's end. Although thorough and engaging enough, Fitzpatrick's account doesn't have the pop and pull of, say, Warren St. John's fine Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
hich followed the Alabama Crimson Tide's 1999 season. Still, Paterno's rich story continues to play itself out, and The
Lion in Autumn will enable any reader to appreciate that story in this and future Paterno seasons. Alan MooresCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved