My thoughts on the new “Paterno” book by Joe Posnanski….

I just finished the book, “Paterno” by Joe Posnanski. I was fortunate enough to have the back cover photograph. My Friend Joe Hermitt had the front. Between the two of us we probably photographed JoePa more than anyone.

 

I read over half the book on a bench in Sunset Park, not more than 100 yards from the Paterno home. Why? I am not sure why. I wanted a quiet place to read and reflect on this man that I knew all these years. This seemed like the right place. I spent many cold hours in front of his house in November. I always wondered what I wasn’t seeing. What was going on in that house and how was Joe handling all of this? Now, this book has given me insight into those unanswered questions.

 

No matter which camp you reside in, this book will not change your mind or sway you in any direction. I am a photographer and this is the only Paterno book I have ever read. I am not a writer or a book reviewer. I am a man that spent 25 seasons (somewhere north of 200+ games) covering Penn State football from as close as you could get. I also saw Joe at many functions away from the field. My job is to show the viewer what I see. Basically, I am a paid observer. I never had much to say from this front row of history. However, as I get older I have discovered the guy behind the camera has a lot on his mind.

 

If you are looking for the Holy Grail answer as to why Joe did what he did or didn’t do, you will not find it here. The Book did one thing for me, and that was all I was looking for. It filled in some of the blanks. We all know the core story: Brooklyn, Brown, Engle, George, Sue, Coach, Bear, champions, players, education, age. This was the hit music we heard over and over and it became lore. The book feels like the Album to those greatest hits. The songs you didn’t hear when you were only listening to the hits. Now, we want to hear the album and see what the rest of the story is. I liked the album. Details I didn’t know, insight into the last days of Joe’s life, stories I never knew. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry.

 

Everyone will tell you Joe was a complex man. He was, no doubt. He had faults and they don’t sugar coat it in the book. I saw some of these first hand. The book does not draw conclusions, it allows you to think for yourself. Make up your own mind and hopefully find peace with what you find. I did.

 

I have told my close friends what I am telling you now. In all the years I covered Penn State football with all the people I knew, players, coaches, reporters, photographers, workers, fans, students, and everyone else you can think of after doing this for 25 years, I was as stunned as anyone when the Sandusky story broke. I didn’t hear a rumor, a whisper, a sentence, or a single word about Jerry Sandusky. Nothing. I was very close to the program and gained the trust that you only get from being there that long. I heard nothing.

 

The following is MY opinion on Joe Paterno’s role in this whole mess. The book reveals a lot of what I thought was going on. I honestly don’t believe he understood or comprehended what he was told. His generation could not comprehend these horrific acts. The generation gap is too big for us to understand what he thought. His kids made him read the newspapers so he would understand what was happening. They insisted he know what was being said about him. He did with great reluctance. He had to ask his kids embarrassing questions about some of the sexual descriptions. Things you never want your kids to ask you.

 

After reading the Sandusky report and asking his kids about public opinion of him, and they were totally honest, he said: “How could they think that? They really think that if I knew someone was hurting kids, I wouldn’t stop it? Do they know me? Do they know know what my life was about?” Exactly. That is exactly how I feel. He never liked Sandusky, that was known, for a very long time, by people anywhere near the program. He would never protect anyone who did that to kids. He would walk to the police station and report it, in person, if he had any idea what was going on. That’s what I think. Read what you want, believe what you want. Many times, in this book, Joe speaks to you about this. If this man was acting all his life doing everything he could the right way, turning boys into great men, and working to improve everything around him. Why would he protect someone hurting children? He wouldn’t. It’s that simple. To protect the program, his image? Nope, if you believe that then everything you knew about Joe Paterno was an act. If that was an act we witnessed one hell of a performance. Nope, we saw the real deal and people were so quick to sell him short. I won’t.

 

Joe said, let the truth speak for itself. He is the only person to say he wished he had done more. How selfless is that? He passed on everything he knew, because he knew it was out of his realm of knowledge. He thought he did the right thing. He thought he took care of it. In hindsight, he wished he had done more. Yes, we all wish that now. I don’t believe he had any clue to the depth of this horrific man. Sandusky fooled EVERYBODY.

 

The family says Joe died with peace in his heart. I believe he knew the truth will come out in time. Time the haters didn’t give him. Time the Board didn’t give him. Now, all we have is time. I think we owe it to him to give this time to play out. Time will tell us what we need to know, then we can decide for ourselves what makes sense. I know Joe rests in peace on that quiet hillside in Lemont. He lived a great life and we were lucky to have him for so long.

 

So, how do I feel about Joe Paterno?
That’s easy.
I miss him.

 

About patlittleimages

I am a Central Pennsylvania native. I have been a professional Photojournalist for over 35 years. I work as a Photo adviser for the Daily Collegian at Penn State and I am a freelance Photojournalist, under contract with Reuters. I am, basically, a hired gun. Pay me, I'll work for you. Oh yeah, I am also an artist. I travel and sell my work everywhere East of the Mississippi. I call State College, PA home, but I live in a small town, with my wife Mindy, called Philipsburg, PA. After years behind the camera observing life, I have discovered I have something to say. This all came about when all the news broke around Penn State. I have been engulfed in all of it and I have a lot to say. This is my home and it just struck a cord that I couldn't silence.
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52 Responses to My thoughts on the new “Paterno” book by Joe Posnanski….

  1. Chris Zacko says:

    Your review and interpretation of the events are spot on. Thank you for such a well written piece

  2. bill '81 says:

    Very touching and appropriate. As a PSU alum, I appreciate your remarks and candor.

  3. Vickie Fleisher-Gann says:

    Why are the good ones always the first to go and we are left with scumbags and slime?…

  4. Dontneedto Knowthateither says:

    Here we go. Another apologist.

    • Here we go, another person who thinks if you write ANYTHING regarding Paterno that doesn’t condem him to hell that you are “an apologist”, as if that is even wrong in the first place. Dontneedtoknowthateither (fitting, btw) an apologist is “a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial”. If that is the case, sign me up, I’m an apologist. Slap me with whatever name you want, I still want to live in a world where I don’t blindly bow at the alter of ESPN, CSPAN, FOX News, etc. If there is controversy on a subject, it REQUIRES debate and insight. That’s all. Now let me scroll down here and look for the other obligatory post where someone calls us all “child sexual abuse enablers.” I’m sure that is here somewhere….

    • joe says:

      Apologist for what?

  5. randsco says:

    Insightful & honest. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Denise Montgomery says:

    So well said. Thank you for saying what needed to be said. People who did not know Coach Paterno do understand the generation from which he is from and tried to instill in the young men through the football program.

    Your word is your honor. If you do wrong you pay the consequences. Coach Paterno is about what is best for kids; regardless of the program. Check your history. Look up – why did Penn State lose to Clemson in a bowl game.

  7. Diane Stockmal says:

    I totally agree that Joe did not understand what Sandusky had done. My father was from the same generation and he would never have understood. Joe lived his life for the students! He was a man of honor and integrity; and the truth will come out someday! But my opinion has never changed. JoePa was and always will be Penn State to me!

    • Wanda Borden says:

      Diane, the same with my father. God rest is soul. I am not sure that he would have totally understood either. Joe was all about ethics and a good education. I cannot wait for the NCAA to eat their words. The truth will come out and prevail. Joe was without a doubt, a man of integrity; Jerry Sandusky was and is the opposite. Joe was the best. He is the reason I was a Penn State fan.

    • Dave Gardner says:

      Dianne – the same with my father and father-in-law who are still living in their 80s like Joe Pa and don’t understand.

  8. Pamela Pauline says:

    You just put into words our feelings exactly TIME will tell the world what we know in our hearts.

  9. Paula Franetti says:

    Thank you Patrick for sharing your “picture” of Joe Paterno–that’s worth more than a million words. And I encourage you to keep speaking out what’s in your heart, for your observant eyes see what’s beyond most people’s one-sided superficial view. Sadly, a lot of people quickly judge another person’s actions by what they read or hear from convenient biased media sources and conclude it to be the truth. Maybe part of what we are to learn from this experience is to take enough time to observe first then conclude much later….

  10. Robert says:

    So, how do I feel about Joe Paterno?
    That’s easy.
    I miss him.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  11. larry jones says:

    Thank you!

  12. Evonne Thomas says:

    My thoughts EXACTLY! Thank you for putting them into words. I’m about halfway through the book and wish I had more time to read. It’s remarkable.

  13. Jack McGarry says:

    This pretty much hits the nail on the head, for me… it may not for everybody, but if you never knew anything about the man, don’t be so quick to judge him based on what the media and opinions have fed you.

  14. Penny says:

    I also believe he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. Thanks for sharing…

  15. Jeff Butch says:

    Great reflection of the book
    I agree 100 percent with what you have stated

  16. eyedoc90 says:

    Very nice! I linked your entry in my Penn State blog, The Lion’s Den.

  17. Very well written and true to the core!!! Anyone, far and wide, who has ever had any dealings with JoePa knows that he would never place a child in harm’s way nor protect those who did. How sad of the public, with or without help from the media’s desire for sensationalism, to try and convict JoePa without Due Process, the same right supposedly guaranteed to all, under the Constitution of the United States! Also, I thought there was a law against holding someone criminally or civilally liable for the criminal actions of another absent knowledge or negligence…neither has been proven…only assumed by Freeh’s biased and unthorough investigation…look at his track record…Lawyer Timothy Lewis called Louis Freeh, the former FBI director and federal judge behind the report, a “biased investigator…” Let’s not also forget Biblical Scripture which warns of the dangers of a wicked tongue spreading rumors and untruths, or those who judge others…lest he be judged….

    • SANDI FETTERMAN
      Thank you Laurie for what you have said here I agree with you 100% , I’m from JOPA’S generation and I haven’t read the book yet but I will get to it. But it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the things Sandusky did and others like him it’s mind bogoling to me. We always JoPa was one of the good guys. And we still belive it. And I especially liked what yo u said about scripture, there’s only one who has the right to judge and that’s our Lord Jesus Christ. Sandusky has a lot to explain to his maker.

  18. Lisa Miltenberger says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I’m about a third of the way through the book myself and am loving it. It is the first book on Paterno I have read as well. I appreciate the stories and well rounded perspective.

  19. Kathleen McCormack Lorenc says:

    Thank you for putting into words what my heart feels. I will never believe anything but the best of Joe Paterno. Integrity doesn’t skip a beat…it is who he was.

  20. Cliff says:

    Very nice, thank you. We must all wait, be strong and continue to fight for the full truth to be told.

  21. Missy Ottinger Swoope says:

    God bless JoePa!!

  22. Claudia House says:

    Thank you, thanks you, thank you. This is exactly what I’ve been saying all along.

  23. Lion Insider says:

    There is one critical point you might be overlooking. That is, Mike McQueary miserably failed to give Joe an opportunity to understand the seriousness of the situation because he never witnessed sex and told both his father / Dr Dranov the same AND told the Grand Jury AND Judge at Schultz’s + Curley’s Prelim Hearing the same exact thing. It was not until he was pressured and coerced for fear of failure to report charges against both him + his father that MM ‘tightened up’ his story and remembered he ‘saw sex.’. So I ask you, how can anyone blame Joe for not turning in a sexual predator when 1) MM never reported a sex and 2) Joe reported to Curley + Schultz what MM had relayed to him and 3) the AG indicated Joe ‘did exactly what he was supposed to’? There was NO COVER UP, rather it was a huge miss by everyone for a long time, the only plausible conclusion. Cover Up Theory does not add up at all and will not ever make any sense to me.

    • EXACTLY LION INSIDER! Also, it was no secret that JoePa couldn’t stand Sandusky. Furthermore, JoePa didn’t give Sandusky a key to the facilities to commit HIS CRIMES, nor did he grant the permission. JoePa did more than the law required him to do! We are and will forever be because he was and will always be…

  24. Bill Frank says:

    As I read the book a picture emerged of a man who over time began to believe in his own omnipotence. Let’s face it, all Joe had to do was say, “Get to the bottom of this” and Curly/Shultz would have been racing to the authorities. After years of being Master of His Realm and continually thumbing his nose at Spanier and the Trustees, Joe had ZERO allies come November 2011.

    • Jimbo Jackson says:

      Get to the bottom of WHAT? Joe was told from McQuery about an incident and Joe got him in touch with the chain of command. Should Joe be investigating locker room incidences? If Joe had Curly/Spanier in the palm of his hand, why did they show up at his house that night in 2004 (maybe off on the year)?

  25. Pat, thanks again for your thoughts — and keep expressing them.

    I agree with your evaluation, and with what many of the others in this reply area have said. I was at PSU in the mid-’70s and had a few precious opportunities to interact with JoePa, most as he recorded public service announcements that I helped to produce for PARC when I worked at WMAJ/WXLR. He was amazingly humble off the field, and not like many of the celebs and politicians I have encountered over the years whose self-importance is exceeded only by their lack of self-awareness.

    As his involvement with PARC illustrated, Joe was ALWAYS about helping kids. Anyone who would believe he would EVER knowingly put any child in danger for any reason never met the man.

    My father, who is Joe’s age, is so affected by the mass media condemnation of Joe that I worry he’ll have a medical issue when he gets going on the matter. My dad’s biggest refrain: how is it that the higher Catholic church officials have more or less a media free pass with the THOUSANDS of kids and HUNDREDS of pedophile priests who were just moved from one place to another by the hierarchy over the years — but Joe, who DID report the ONE thing he was told when there were no other investigations going on (as the 1998 incident WAS investigated and dismissed), is now a national pariah?

    Again, all those who are so eager to condemn JoePa have no personal knowledge of the man and probably were PSU haters looking for any excuse to knock down a good man.

  26. joe says:

    Wonderful!..this truth will come out soon, after all the ignorant, haters have had their say. It is so sad that all the haters do not have the slightest clue about the life of Coach Paterno, but in this day and age their voices are heard in so many ways. And inaccurate, out-of-context hearsay is taken for gospel.

    No why these haters believe a cover-up took place? Because it is these same fearful, self-centered people that would lead a cover-up if they were in the same or similar situation.

  27. Lorrie Stirling says:

    Makes me sad, makes me cry, people were so quick to judge, condemn a man that spent his whole life giving to the University, to the students, his players. How can we right such a wrong? God bless you Joe.

  28. Kathy says:

    Well said! Could not agree more!

  29. When it comes to child sexual abuse, everybody has twenty-twenty hindsight and nobody has a crystal ball. We all think we’d know exactly what to do, understand exactly what’s going on, and that the system will get it all sorted out properly… so why do most molesters offend hundreds of times over a period of years before they’re even CHARGED for the first time, much less convicted?

    Which is to say, your take on events is credible to me, and much more compassionate than perpetuating Sandusky’s legacy of arrogance and destruction with more of same by those who decry his predation most loudly.

    Thanks for a sane, articulate contribution to a dialogue that has been all too brutal to all concerned.

  30. Denise Montgomery says:

    We are Penn State and we will get through this together. As a former resident of State College I was a student with Coach Paterno’s children through the school district. I can remember how children could be cruel with their words at the Paterno children if Penn State lost game.

    I meet Dianna when we were both cheerleaders for our local high school. This was when our squad got to know Coach Paterno – the father. As a squad we rallied around Dianna when the people said mean things. Dianna and the other children are like their father. Very humble, politie, and respectful. Never did you witness them cry from those words or respond. Lol – they didn’t have too – we did it for them. Because we were their friends.

    For Christmas one year I received the book, “Paterno by the Book”. I thought I understood what the Paterno family endured – I was wrong. I had no idea.

    So for those of you who have made up your minds to throw the stones at the glass house – read this book as well. Because I will protect this family too the end. If after reading this book you still believe that Coach Paterno was all about football and protect the program; then there is no hope for you.

    I miss Coach Paterno too. But nothing like his beautiful family does. Thank you again Paterno family for sharing him so unselfishly.

  31. sabdy says:

    I truly believe a person who has lived their whole life with such integrity and convictions would or could not for any reason cover up the actions of a monster like Sandusky. I hope Joe’s family realize there are many of us who maintain Joe is still exactly the person we always believed him to be.

  32. Ken Sagan says:

    I was very fortunate to have met Joe in 1969 when he spoke ar our high school football banquet. I can remember it like it was yesterday and sometimes I cannot remember what I did yesterday. Joe spoke about “Goals’ not necessarily footbal goals but goals in life. Right then and there I knew that I wanted to go to Penn State, but my parents thoughtt differently. It took 35 years to get to PSU, but I attained that goal, and many other goals, because of what Joe instilled in my heart. Without that goal, I would not have met my wife, my children would not be PSU alum, I would not have had the opportunity to teach there and go on to Washington to change this world we live it. So my question to all those Joe Haters. How do you measure what he has done for me, my childeren and the country? I sure cannot and I lived it. And then one must ask.. How many more are there that are just like myself?

    • Denise Montgomery says:

      Thank you Ken for reminding us PSU fans, we are not alone. On and off the field he affected us. May God continue to bless you and keep continue what Coach Paterno taught us all through the Grand Experiment.

  33. Annie Munro says:

    Your beautifully written essay, written from a unique perspective, highlights what many of us believe: Joe wouldn’t have been any kid in danger. As for how you feel about Joe, you aren’t alone. I miss him, too.

  34. Annie Munro says:

    Your beautifully written essay, written from a unique perspective, highlights what many of us believe: Joe wouldn’t have put any kid in danger. As for how you feel about Joe, you aren’t alone. I miss him, too.

  35. I received my copy of the book from my library this week and like most people
    started at the end. I don’t want to get into any of that but I do want to mention one point. I don’t remember who first mentioned the fact to me that in early ’01 while all this Sandusky stuff was going on Joe had more on his mind. Adam Taliaferro, who was injured near the end of the ’00 season,
    was going through intensive therapy and Joe was there a great deal of the time
    trying to help as much as possible. Adam and others have mentioned this many
    times. The point being that Joe was more concerned about a player of his who
    was going through a major struggle in his life and not so much with a situation
    with an ex-coach. I was hoping this would have been stressed in the book but
    even though there is a chapter titled “Adam” it contains more words about the
    Sandusky incident than about Adam and Joe. I thought the fact that Joe was so
    concerned about Adam was important to bring out and was very, very disappointed
    that it wasn’t stressed more in the book. I think Joe was so concerned about
    Adam and his injuries that he had little concern about a guy that didn’t work
    for him. He turned that matter over to people he thought would handle it and
    put his energies into helping Adam. And I feel at the time for him this was the
    best option although many “haters” would not think so … but we know it’s so
    “Joe”, this player was hurt under his care and he had to make him his highest
    priority!

    Steve ’69 in VA

  36. Shaana says:

    I’m glad, as a professional photographer, that you were a paid observer… that seems to have given you way more insight than most writers. We all know, a picture paints a 1000 words, .. yours paint 1001.

  37. Cyndi says:

    Exactly how I feel, too… Thank you.

  38. Dan says:

    Very well written and thoughtful, Pat. Thanks. You hit on a key truth, that Paterno came from a time when one did not have to comprehend, let alone need to know about and take action regarding such events as what McQueary testified during the Sandusky trial that he saw.

    One other truth is that Joe had more real power than anyone else in the university hierarchy, So the argument that he deferred to his “superiors” just doesn’t stand up. I believe the Curley-Schultz trials will make that clear. Paterno will appear to have been the central player in the decision not to report, though I agree (and apparently Joe might have agreed as well) that it was out of ignorance.

    The fundamental truth is that Joe Paterno had stayed on well beyond the time when he could continue to perform as a fully competent university representative and leader. It is the unexpected and previously unnoticed flaws in the main character that brings down the hero in Greek tragedy. A quick trip to Wikipedia provides a very apt description under the term hamartia. However, this is not a staged dramatic production, but a real life series of events affecting thousands personally, most seriously those many victims of Sandusky.

    I haven’t read the book, and I’m not sure that I will. But I do wonder whether Joe’s family ever confronted him about hanging on as long as he did, especially as it became clear to them as it would to any family that Joe was not the same guy he had been twenty, or even ten, years before. As seems to have occurred just to get Joe to read the newspaper, it’s very sad that many years before, the Paterno family did not come together to force Joe to step down from coaching gracefully, in a way that would have reflected both maturity and humility.

    Joe’s reputation and winning record would have likely avoided the level of censure that has been the result of the revelations surrounding Sandusky’s criminal behavior.

  39. Monica Cox says:

    Are you sure you’re not a writer? This is how I’ve felt about Joepa all along, thank you for saying it so eloquently.

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