When award-winning journalist Joe Posnanski announced a new project was in the works almost seven months ago, many sports fans were interested. Posnanski had written some great material in the past, so it was undoubtedly going to be a success, we just didn't know what the subject matter was going to cover. Then it was formally announced, and Nittany Nation rejoiced.
For the past seven or so months, Posnanski has been living in State College, researching a forthcoming book on none other than Joseph Vincent Paterno. He has spoken with many close to the legendary coach, and is putting together what will surely be a great read. The only downfall is that Posnanski set his timetable at 18 months, so we've still got a year of waiting.
We asked Posnanski to share a little bit about his work, what State College is like, and what prompted a book on the winningest coach in Division 1 history.
BSD: First and foremost, how is the book coming? It's been almost seven months since you officially announced your highly anticipated work on Joe Paterno, and fans are eager for anything about the legendary coach. Is anything down on paper yet, or are you still simply taking it all in?
JP: I'm in the early reporting stages of the book. I tend to do these things differently, but in this case what I've wanted to do is quietly report the book for a few months before writing even a word. I think the process is going pretty well, people have been great. There have been so many people who have felt a connection with Joe, and fortunately for me people love talking about him.
BSD: Your past works have included an epic road trip with Buck O'Neilin The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America and a look at The Big Red Machine in The Machine: A Hot Team a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series. Why a book on Joe Paterno, a college football icon?
JP: There are a lot of reasons I was drawn to this book, some of them very personal. But I think the easiest way to explain it is that I was just drawn to his story.
There will never be another one like him. Ever. When Joe Paterno stops coaching at Penn State, whether that is next year in five years or in two decades, we will have seen the last of an era. Everybody around the Penn State program, of course, knows the story, and I wonder if it's easy to miss just how unique it is. A man coaches in the same place for 60 years. He and the town and the school all grow together. He tries to win, and he tries to win honorably. That's just a remarkable story and a remarkable life.
There have -- as you know -- been many books written about Joe, some of them very good. There have been a million articles. Is there anything new to say? I think there is. I hope there is. I guess we'll find out.
BSD: Can you share anything from the book that fans of Paterno might not know? We all know of the great coach, the humble philanthropist, and the loving family man. Have you come across a different side of Joe, or is he as he appears in his public persona?
JP: I think Joe is what people think he is -- after all, you can't fool people for 60 years. Sure, I would hope there will be a lot in the book that will offer insight into Joe as a person, as a coach, as a teacher, as a role model, as a friend, as a legend and all those things. But I don't think we're going to find out that Joe is actually a 6-foot-3 gentleman with a Southern accent.
He is Joe Paterno. He's not the saint that some of his more enthusiastic fans try to paint him as. And he's also not the character that some of his critics paint him as. He's a man who I think, for 60 years, really has tried his best.
BSD: Finally, what do you think of State College? Is this your first time visiting/living in the area? Do you really think Urban Meyer could turn down such a beautiful town? (Feel free to wax poetic on anything you want here).
JP: I've spent a bit of time in State College the last couple of years, but this of course is the first time I've actually lived here, and I do like it very much. People have been great. It is beautiful, and people have been great to me. My regret is that I have not yet had any Peachy Paterno at the Creamery. I'll get that done as soon as possible. [Ed. Meyer comment artfully dodged.]