Deep into Joe Posnanski's new "Paterno", the author notes the Time Before and the Time After.
Before, Nov. 5, 2011, the book says it was very difficult to find anyone willing to say a truly bad word about the late former Penn State football coach. But after Nov. 5, the book says, it was far more difficult to find anyone willing to say a good word.
It seems today as if you could apply the same line to Posnanski.
Before the release of the book, Posnanski was one of the most respected sportswriters in the business. I only heard good words about him from colleagues in the business and other sports editors around the country. He won our Associated Press Sports Editors top columnist honor twice. One editor once described a young Posnanski as the best agate clerk the Charlotte Observer ever had, a waste of skills parallel to a young Peyton Manning being the best water boy a football team ever had.
Posnanski went on to write for the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, Kansas City Star and Sports Illustrated before recently joining the nascent Sports on Earth online venture and penning this book, which has been criticized for not delving deep enough into the controversial last months of Paterno's life and coming up with a clear explanation as to his role in the Jerry Sandusky saga.
Many of those reviews have been rather harsh and some are too personal, such as FoxSports.com's Jason Whitlock, a former colleague of Posnanski at the Star. He said "most puddles are deeper than 'Paterno'" and that the book only served to distance Paterno from Sandusky and to distance Posnanski from his "journalistic cowardice and fraudulence" in a review that does not disclose they used to work together.
My take on the book is similar to Posnanski's overall take on Paterno - it's somewhere in the middle though the seamless writing makes it a quick read.
Those who have read any of the previous Paterno books, such as "Football My Way" or "Paterno: By the Book" and closely followed news of the past year probably won't learn much. Too much time is spent on old information, such as discussing his letters while serving in Korea in 1946 and the blow-by-blow recap of 1973 when Paterno turned down the New England Patriots and coached John Cappelletti to the Heisman Trophy.
There's not enough insight into the past year. For all his access, Posnanski doesn't explore enough of the Paterno-Sandusky relationship from its beginnings through the 1980s glory days through Sandusky's 1999 retirement and any aftermath of the 2001 report by Mike McQueary.
In fact, there's just one chapter dedicated to Sandusky, no more than Rip Engle, Bear Bryant, Sue Paterno, Jay Paterno or Adam Taliaferro.
Anyone looking for insight as to why Paterno didn't do more after reporting McQueary's story to athletic director Tim Curley or why he told Washington Post reporter Sally Jenkins that he "backed away" from the whole thing or even more on his cancer diagnosis and treatment will finish the book wanting more.
This book needed a few more months of research and work, something that should have seemed obvious when the Grand Jury presentment came out in the midst of the season Posnanski was chronicling.
All I can say there is that the book confirmed my theory on Paterno, that he didn't do more because he was not just a Hall of Fame coach, but a Hall of Fame compartmentalizer. The book says how Paterno kept a blue line in front of the football practice field, and that when they crossed it, nothing mattered except football. Paterno wanted his players to concentrate on the game when they crossed that line, not their classes, girlfriends or problems.
And I think Paterno spent too many of his final days inside that blue line, not worrying about the problems of the Sandusky victims who might have used his help after 2001, and too much on the game of football.
The book doesn't tell me that, I'm left to draw my own conclusions, which Posnanski said he wants the reader to do. But those conclusions were neither changed nor challenged, which is why I chose to read it in the first place.