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Video: Author: Paterno ‘wished he had done more’

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    >> he was revered for victories on the field and charity work . in the end he was fired and disgraced. in the wake of the jerry sandusky child sex abuse case. sports writer was chronicling his life when the scandal erupted. he conducted the last interview. he writes about it in a new book called " paterno ." good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> when you had to throw things up in the air, you were in the middle of this project when the scandal broke. did you completely change the mission statement ?

    >> i think the mission from the start was to write as honest a book as i could about joe paterno . obviously the story changed and in the end that throws you up in the air.

    >> you had access to joe paterno and the family. you were in the home when some of the headlines were being revealed. what was the dynamic like inside that home?

    >> there was absolutely a lot of panic. nobody understood what was going on. it was such a whirlwind. it was difficult. it was such an odd place to be as a writer. i knew as i was writing this book, i knew that what i wanted to do was put the reader there.

    >> when you say no one really knew what was going on, but you do write that his family members, in particular his children, tried to convince joe paterno that this scandal was enormous and might consume him. you make it sound like paterno himself was in denial.

    >> i think that's true. certain members of the family understood this thing was going to be huge quite a bit before when it broke. even those people that did not understand how bad.

    >> was he in denial about what happened with sandusky or was he in denial about how it might impact him.

    >> i think more the former. i think he was in denial somewhat about what the story really was, how bad it really was. yeah, i think at the end, i think he always felt to the end that he did what he was supposed to do, not to the extent he would have liked but what he was supposed to do.

    >> you write that his family members almost had to force him to read the grand jury 's presentment in the jerry sandusky case. it was graphic, damaging stuff. after they read it, he said, quote, what are resaying about me? that's not so what do we need to do for these victims, or let's talk about the victims of abuse, it's what are they saying about me?

    >> what i really wanted to do as we were talking about, i thought it was really important to put his words out there and let people decide for themselves. obviously that's one you can decide what you think about. clearly when he said that, everything was -- he was in the process of being fired. he was in the process of being disgraced. he did not feel like certainly openly, did not feel like his role in this was being fairly portrayed. that was his response. that's right. you can't read that and not wonder those questions.

    >> did he come around from that state of denial ? you conducted what turned out to be the last interview with joe paterno . he had been fairly disgraced at that point. he had been fired. he was ill, we should mention. what was his state of mind ?

    >> him being ill was a big part of it. he was dying of cancer. the last interview i did in his hospital room was very, very emotional for him. i think his state of mind was exactly, you know, as i tried to write in the book. he wished he done more. he said he wished he had done more. he always said in the end he didn't cover this up or purposefully intend to hurt anybody. he felt -- he would say again and again he felt terrible for the victims. but again, it's a tough one. obviously he did say some things that later proved out to be not necessarily 100% accurate.

    >> i started this by saying you set out to write a different book, or at least you thought the circumstances were different. here is a guy who preached honesty, integrity, character. now that you've had a little time to step back with a little distance between you and joe paterno , how do you think he should be remembered?

    >> i wrote 125,000 words if you remember. it's very, very complicated. this is a man, when you read the book, you see how many people felt like their lives were changed by him, inspired by him, galvanized by him. you can't ignore those people. at the same time you can't ignore the evils of jerry sandusky and the horrible things that were done. joe paterno , among others, were in a position to stop him and didn't. i don't think you can ignore any of that. but to me the book is the book. the life is the life.

    >> the legend but an im perfect legend.

    >> maybe so.

    >> joe, the book is simply called " paterno ." great to have you here.

    >> thanks for having me.

Simon & Schuster
TODAY books
updated 8/21/2012 8:41:32 AM ET 2012-08-21T12:41:32

After decades as a celebrated football coach for Penn State, Joe Paterno found himself in the middle of a scandal that rocked both the Penn State community and the nation as a whole. Sportswriter Joe Posnanski traces Paterno’s iconic career and the controversy that brought him down. Read an excerpt.


Joe Paterno
speech to high school coaches
February 5, 1993, Hershey, Pennsylvania

What is a coach? We are teachers. Educators. We have the same obligations as all teachers, except we probably have more influence over young people than anybody but their families. And, in a lot of cases, more than their families.

To teach an academic subject is certainly not easy, but compared to coaching, it is. We can say two plus two is four to every kid and be sure that we are right. But in coaching, we have to literally get to the soul of the people we are dealing with.

We have to work with emotion, commitment, discipline, loyalty, pride.

The things that make the difference in a person’s life.

They look to us for examples. A boy wants to be a man. But he doesn’t know what a man is. They look to us for poise. Everybody doesn’t get a fair shake in life. They look to us for values. You must relate athletic experiences to life. You are role models.

They look to us for consistency. We have to realize a kid will love us one day and hate us the next. That cannot change who we are and what we are about. We are there to help them reach for excellence . . . and not just win games.

We have to be understanding but tough. Firm. Real firmness is always helpful. Bill Clinton said, “I feel for you.” Vince Lombardi said, “The pain is in your head.”

Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote about the difference between excellence and success. He wrote:

“Many people, particularly in sports, believe that success and excellence are the same. They are not. No distinction in the realm of games is more important. Success is tricky, perishable, and often outside our control. On the other hand, excellence is dependable, lasting, and largely within our control. Let me emphasize at once that nobody is all one way or another. The desire for success and love of excellence coexist in all of us. The question is: Where does the balance lie? In a pinch, what guides us?”

I think we all have to ask ourselves that question. In a pinch, what guides us—success or excellence? Which will give us shelter when the storm clouds gather?


This is the story of a man named Joe Paterno, who in his long life was called moral and immoral, decent and scheming, omniscient and a figurehead, hero and fraud, Saint Joe and the devil. A life, of course, cannot be reduced to a single word, but Joe Paterno had something bold and soaring in his personality that attracted extremes. That boldness compelled him to do remarkable and unprecedented things. That boldness also led people to say that, at the end, his failures destroyed whatever good he had done.

Video: Paterno family will appeal Penn State sanctions (on this page)

The old man sat at the kitchen table and stared at the pages scattered in front of him. He did not want to read them. He told his sons and daughters that he already knew what was written there, understood it well enough. He did not need to waste any more time on it. The old man had never been patient about such things. Digest and move on. Win or lose and then plan for the next game. “Continue to advance until you run out of ammunition,” General George S. Patton had commanded. The old man admired Patton.

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“Time is our enemy” is how the old man said it, and also “Put no effort into anything that isn’t helpful.” There was too much to do. There was no time to linger. But this was different. His sons and daughters insisted that he read every terrible word, that he stop for a moment, just stop, and let those words shock and suffocate him the way they shocked and suffocated millions. “Dad,” they told him, “you have to know what you are up against.”

Behind him—through the living room, past the front door, beyond the lawn—three dozen television cameras pointed at the house. Men and women, many of them young, held notepads and microphones and sandwiches. They drank soda pop through straws poking out of cardboard cups, and they talked to each other, mostly about the lack of hotel accommodations to be found anywhere near this small Pennsylvania town. They stared every now and again at the corner house on McKee Street to see if anything had changed. Did the door crack open? Was a window shade pulled up? They told each other gruesome jokes to pass the time.

To the old man’s right was a window, and through it he could see television satellite trucks in the parking lot by the small park next door. The old man had never spent much time reminiscing— nostalgia too slowed life’s advance—but lately he had found himself looking out this window and thinking about when his children played tag in that park, threw footballs to each other, spun in circles in the bright sunlight until they fell onto the grass. Those children were grown now, and they moved around him slowly, moons revolving in his gravity, and every now and again they peered in and tried to read the expression on his face. The park outside was called Sunset Park.

Video: Questions linger about Penn State's football future (on this page)

The old man tried to concentrate on the pages in front of him, but the words jumped up and stung him. Penetration. Erection. Genitals. Oral. What did these words have to do with him? His life? Even as a boy, when he played quarterback on his high school football team back in Brooklyn, he would lecture his teammates in his high-pitched squeal when one of them unleashed a swear word. “Aw gee, come on, guys, let’s keep it clean!” They thought him a prude even then. He had lived a sheltered life—not by accident but by choice. The Paternos never even watched any television except The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. The old man knew many things. He knew Latin. He knew why Aeneas pressed on. He knew where to find good ice cream, the words of the Boy Scout oath, the difference between Johannes Bach and Johann Sebastian Bach. He knew why Hemingway was greater than Fitzgerald and never hesitated to illuminate doubters. He knew the power of opera and spent much of his life working with overtures and intermezzos and arias playing in the background. Most of all, he knew how to turn young men into football players and football players into a football team and football teams into winners. The old man stared at the papers in front of him and asked his children questions about sex that embarrassed everyone, and he wondered if he knew anything at all.

Excerpted from Paterno by Joe Posnanski. Copyright © 2012 by Joe Posnanski. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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