Sherman takes down Paterno book: Disjointed at best, apologetic at worst

Joe Posnaski's new biography 'Paterno.' Credit: Simon & Schuster

UPDATE: This should be good. NBC says Bob Costas is sitting down for a one-one-one with Joe Posnanski on the next edition of NBC Sports Network’s Costas Tonight airing Wednesday, Aug. 29 (9 p.m. ET).

Costas is the best interviewer in the business and Posnanski was an eyewitness to the worst sports scandal in recent history. Look for him to push Posnanski about how much the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno knew about his former assistant coach turned convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky — and when he knew it.

Costas will also show a complete version of his interview last Nov. 14 in which Sandusky all but admitted his guilt on national TV. Still can’t believe Sandusky’s lawyer let him do that one.

PREVIOUS: Joe Posnanski’s new biography about legendary coach Joe Paterno from Simon & Schuster is getting fair to middling reviews. But the most serious takedown of Paterno I’ve read so far comes from sports media blogger Ed Sherman at The Sherman Report.

Sherman nails it in my view. The problem for Posnanski is he spent months with Paterno and his family in Happy Valley researching a feel-good book in time for Father’s Day in 2013 — only to watch the Jerry Sandusky scandal send the Penn State campus, Paterno’s sterling reputation and his own project up in smoke. The result is not the book Posnanski wanted to write, says Sherman. It shows in the finished product, where the author doesn’t really delve into the Sandusky scandal until page 247.

Writes Sherman:

Everything changed on that fateful November weekend. For Penn State, Paterno, and for Posnanski. The end result is a hastily-rushed to market book that is disjointed at best and apologetic at worst. It probably couldn’t be anything else given the circumstances that Posnanski faced.

I sympathize with Posnanski, one of the country’s top sportswriters. One of the hardest things for reporters to do is write objectively about sources/subjects who become personal friends. Posnanski clearly liked and admired Paterno, who died of lung cancer on Jan. 23. In return, the Paternos practically made the sportswriter a member of their household with JoePa calling him “Giuseppe,” according to the book. The writer was “hardly was an impartial observer,” notes Sherman.

Having said that, Sherman takes Posnanski to task. Hard. The former Sports Illustrated star had a ringside seat to the biggest sports scandal in history. He was in the living room as the media firestorm over Sandusky consumed Paterno. And he didn’t do nearly enough, as a reporter or an author, to break new ground about what Paterno knew and when he knew it.

In the book, Posnanski writes about a private kitchen-table conversation in which Paterno asked him what he thought of the scandal swirling around Sandusky, his longtime defensive coordinator. In the book, Posnanski writes he told the old coach he should have done more. The story doesn’t ring true with Sherman:

Posnanski wanted to show everyone that he had confronted the coach about not doing more to stop Sandusky. To show he also came down on Paterno. But didn’t it all seem a bit gentle to you? And what other conversations did Posnanski have on the subject of Sandusky and crimes? He had the access. How hard did he push the coach for the truth?

Simon & Schuster reportedly paid Posnanski a $750,000 advance for the book, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN. But the publishing company’s promotion of what should be a major title has so far been as disjointed as the book.

Typically, authors make the rounds of TV, print interviews and appearances to generate publicity. Posnanski’s done few interviews. The whole thing seems odd. It’s as if the book were already being deemed a disappointment. Like a Hollywood movie sent straight to video.

Maybe there’s a method to the madness, but I can’t see it so far. All I see are missed business opportunities. Posnanski’s the biggest name for the upcoming SportsonEarth bog. But when he appeared with Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today show, he missed a golden opportunity to at least mention his new blog. He didn’t mention SportsonEarth and neither did Lauer.

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