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The Lion In Autumn: A Season with Joe Paterno and Penn State Football Hardcover – September 8, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 sportswriter,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 (2004), 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 Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (September 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159240149X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592401499
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,188,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By TAS on November 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nikos A. Leverenz on August 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
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.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Minor on December 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on October 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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