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on October 9, 2016
Posnaski gives us a good outline of a life well lived. As many others have noted, if you simply want a book about the scandal, this is not it. Of course, it is addressed, but as a part of a greater whole. Posnaski's position seems to be that Paterno certainly made a moral failing in 2002, but talk of a "cover up", particularly on his end, displays an ignorance of contextual evidence.

My main gripe with the biography was that it didn't spend too much time discussing his life outside of coaching during the heart of his tenure. I want to know stories about him going to watch Jay play for State College High (or if he even did in the first place). Posnaski constantly references his interest in politics, I want to know more about the causes he championed, the people he supported, etc. And of course, as someone who has "honored Joe" by frequenting it throughout my college years, I want to know more about his vision and involvement in the library addition on campus. Interesting topics that would better paint a portrait of Coach Paterno would have been greatly appreciated.

Having said that, the book draws from a wealth of sources and gets Joe's personal inights and/or recollections on most of the major moments throughout his life, to an extent that we will not see again this side of paradise. For anybody who wants to know more about the molder of student athletes, the man behind the Grand Experiment, "Paterno" is the place to begin.
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on December 27, 2017
As writing assignments go, this one turned out to be almost cruel.

Joe Posnanski, one of America's best sports writers, was given the chance to write a book on one of America's coaching icons. He'd been promised great access to the subject of the biography, who probably would retire at the end of the season. He'd also been given the chance to examine the subject's personal records. It would be a chance to salute one of the icons of the sports world.

But the icon in question was Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach who was caught up in one of the biggest scandals in the history of college sports in the fall of 2011.

"Mr. Posnanski, you're going to have to change some of the tone of the book in order to consider this new information. Oh, and do it as fast as you can, because the public is anxious to read about this and every day that you don't publish it costs us all money."

The resulting book is "Paterno." It's not the book that Posnanski thought he was going to write, certainly, but still worth your time.

Paterno was headed for the mythical Mount Rushmore of coaches until the past year. Yes, he won games, more than any other football coach. He won a few national championships along the way. Paterno turned the middle of Pennsylvania -- and if you've ever been there, you know it's pretty close to the middle of the proverbial nowhere -- into one of the power centers of the college football universe. No small task.

Paterno did it the right way, too. His players graduated, went on to successful lives in many cases, and remembered the lessons they learned from their coach along the way. It wasn't idyllic; there were tough years and bad apples along the way. But it was close.

Most of the book still salutes that tone. Posnanski writes about dozens and dozens of players, coaches, etc. who had a relationship with Paterno. Joe Pa was something of the quirky mad scientist at times, always preferring to hide in his home office and work on some new defense than anything else. Yet he found time to raise a family (with his wife's considerable help), challenge the university to raise its standards, and raised millions to help his school reach a goal of excellence.

Alas, that single-mindedness came back to haunt him. When graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw "something" in a shower involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and a young boy, he reported the incident to Paterno. The head coach passed along the information and never followed up on it. Paterno joins in the chorus here that he should have done more. Paterno and Sandusky apparently didn't get along well, and it's tough to say if there were other clues about Sandusky's behavior that Paterno missed or didn't want to see. Posnanski leaves that for others to investigate.

Guido D'Elia was a friend of Paterno's who saw the coach up close for decades and was convinced of his goodness, but even he couldn't figure out why Paterno didn't follow up on the incident. "Find the answer to that, and you have the story," he said.

So, we don't have the full story, and maybe we never will. Clearly we need time for everything to be sorted out, and time wasn't on Posnanski's side. The book feels a little rushed in spots, with some duplication of material. Yet there is much here that is worth reading, much that gives us insight into this simple yet complicated man.

"Paterno" is an artfully written book that supplies many of the pieces that went into the subject's life. We'll have to see if there are other pieces that complete the puzzle.
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on June 27, 2014
I'm no literary expert but this book is well written besides being an excellent summary of his whole life and views/beliefs. Probably doesn't excel in regards to the Sandusky situation although this was not his main mission. What a man/icon but everyone has some warts. When attending a training course in fall of 1984 at State College, I was amazed at how high a high percentage of people though he was great, great. Granted that he was a giant, but come on. Excellent history of the Penn State Football. I still remember him appearing to the crowd early in the breaking story, and basically saying "______, but pray for the Football Team."
Maybe my recollection of the timing of this is wrong but don't think so. I know he did a lot of good and noteworthy things both in Football and Life Lessons, helping people, etc, But I'm not buying that he didn't know or he did the "right" things. No Way - of course he or all the others didn't know how massive it was, but they still blew it.
But back again to just the book (95% + on other things) it was really good and hard to put down. Well done.
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on September 8, 2012
IF you are looking for a book on Joe Paterno and Penn State that fans the flames and feeds the madness of public opinion, this is not your book.
Instead Joe Posnanski has taken the time to sift through most of Joe Paterno's life and find the reality of the man behind the broken legend.
The book winds through the streets of Brooklyn through Brown University and onto a State College that few of us would recognize. The stories and people lay the foundation for the Paterno who rose to legend only to stumble and fall in the end.
For those of us who had the honor of knowing Joe this book fills in the gaps both in the days before he came into our lives and in those days when the madness arrived and swallowed up all of us. It confirms the good Joe was capable of as well as the shortcomings that were heightened by the ravages of age.
Come to this book with an open mind and you will be rewarded for the experience.
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on October 29, 2017
The author spent a season with Paterno in 2011. It offers some great insights into Paterno's past and personal anecdotes. It paints a picture of a man who did care about athletes getting an education. It's made more heartbreaking knowing how this story will. I get a feeling that because the author was close to Paterno (he was literally with him in his final days), he really wrestles with trying to be objective on Paterno's role in the 2011 scandal. The end comes off almost as if really trying to defend Paterno. The author doesn't try to mitigate any of the crimes of Sandusky, he just tries to put them in perspective.
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on February 21, 2013
If you are looking for a tabloid answer to why Joe Paterno did very little, this is not the book for you. Mr Posnanski leaves that up to you with his award winning writing style. What this man did or allowed to happen should not be his legacy. Mr Posnanski does a very fine job reminding you of all the integrity, and fantastic things he did do. The Jerry Sandusky part is dealt with in a "take me to maybe" sought of way. If, after all that has happened, want to know the true legacy side of Mr. Paterno, then this is a great read. The writer takes the high road with all the insidious events, and reminds, or even challenges us to examine a great man, who had a great life, had his semi dark side, like we all do. He gives you the good and leaves the rest for us to form an opinion based on conjecture. More importantly, I will let God himself to write the last part of Joe Paterno's life. It saddens me to think he could, in any way supported Sandusky. However, he is guilty of one non judge mental fact. The evil that took place happened "on his watch". Joe Posnanski does not speculate. I admire him greatly for staying out of the muck and mire. A good read......
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on January 4, 2013
Confession time. I am a Penn State alum from the '80s. I wasn't a football fan going in as a freshman but I graduated as one. I said hello to Joe many times as I walked to class and he walked to practice. I went to school with friends of his kids... friends who talked warmly about the Paterno family. I witnessed firsthand how Joe held - and upheld - great expectations of his players both on and off the field. I admired how he was able to nurture sport and scholastics simultaneously for the better of both.

So I thought I knew a little about Joe. But the book provided so much more. It provided a lot of background and history from the '60s... material that frankly might've been embarrassing to Joe! As the pages of the book flew by, I realized how much I didn't know about Joe, and how much truth there is in the oft-spoken phrase "The House that Joe Built".

It's one of the few books I'll read twice. And maybe more.
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on September 12, 2012
Excellent book. It was nice to learne about all the students that Paterno so positiveley impacted and how some of these students did in non-football careers after Penn State football. The book has a few accounts from ex-Penn State football players that were great to read about. Every student spoke very highly about Joe. Paterno died in disgrace but he did a great job with the students which he was noted to call "student athletes" It was nice to learn that Paterno heavily emphasized the 'student' not the 'athlete'. Paterno placed a heavy responsibility on the students doing well in school and to be humble. On the latter point, Joe did not have any of the Penn State players names on their uniforms becasue Joe thought that having names on their uniforms to be not a humble thing to do. Penn State, until recently, was the onmly football team NOT to have the players names on the back of their uniforms. Clearly, Joe was a man of high character that made a mistake by not better following up on Sandusky with the police. Joe should be evaluated based upon all the good he did with his life which on balance seemed to heavily outweigh his mistake with the Sandusky affair.
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on May 18, 2016
Awesome book. I had to do a doctorate program report, and this helped me immensely with Joe's Biography. Love that Posnanski is not only thorough, but also entertaining and honest with his opinion. I knew nothing of Paterno before the book except his football record and team he coached. Afterwards, I feel like an expert on the man! Great book. Sad story of sorts, but worth the read if you don't know the man's whole story.
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on September 18, 2012
The Posnanski characterization is true to my perception after watching Paterno for decades. I thought the book was very balanced while not going to extremes to be balanced. The writer makes every page really interesting. He could tell you how to rewire a lamp in an accurate, but fascinating, way. I remember Don Abbey, but didn't know about his contentious relationship with Paterno. That story again, while interesting and ironic, showed the good and bad of Paterno. The book also confirms what Paterno watchers believed -- he put his players' academic performance above football and kept them out of games if they didn't attend class, even compromising the team's chances of winning. Posnanski describes a man who loved to lead and control to the point that he couldn't give it up in his 80's, a man who loved his school, but, contrary to popular opinion, a man who didn't care about a record of wins. The NCAA wouldn't have hurt him by vacating two decades of victories, except as the loss hurt his former players and the school.
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