Book Review: "Paterno" avoids sensationalism as it looks at the famous coach

The book is about a man who came from humble beginnings and eventually captivated the athletic world. Photo: Joe Paterno

FLORIDA, September 30, 2012 — Who was Joe Paterno?

This is the essential question which veteran sports journalist Joe Posnanski seeks to answer. In his new book “Paterno,” the life and times of America’s most famous college football coach are bought to the forefront. 

Posnanski lived in State College, home of Penn State, for several years, and was in the Paterno family’s company as the Jerry Sandusky scandal gained national attention. It cannot be understated how important this is to the biography’s authenticity. With the turn of each page, one comes to understand just how well Posnanski knew Paterno as a man, rather than a media figure. 

Indeed, the book is about a man who came from humble beginnings and eventually captivated the athletic world. Born in Brooklyn only a few years before the Great Depression began, Paterno strived for success from an early age. After finding acclaim as a quarterback at Brown University, he was offered a coaching job at Penn State. 

The rest, as the saying goes, is history. 

While many reviewers have combed “Paterno” in search of information about the aforementioned scandal, the book’s heart and soul revolves around its namesake: How did he manage to build such a powerful legacy? What motivated and inspired him through the years? For better or for worse, these quandaries are not left unaddressed. 

Some believe that Posnanski is a bit too sympathetic toward Paterno. Others surely hoped that his work would be a tabloid with a dust jacket. I believe that the author delivers a straightforward portrayal, one which will earn a place in history as being definitive for its subject. As for the appeal of sensationalism, I am glad to say that Posnanski steers clear of such a thing. 

Keeping all of this in mind, is Paterno worth not only your time, but your money? I most definitely think so. 

Posnanski deserves recognition for his honest account of a man, who was frequently considered to be a living legend. In “Paterno,” popular myths and stereotypes are not trumpeted as indisputable fact. Rather, a truly human story is told — the story of a hard worker who reached for the stars and made mistakes, many of them painful, along the way.


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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