WHEN JOE POSNANSKI’S Paterno debuted at number one on The New York Times best-seller list, it was not thanks to the reviews. The Atlantic called it “A Relentless, Failed Defense.” Salon went with “disgusting” and “a minor literary crime.” Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, who used to work with Posnanski at the Kansas City Star, accused his former colleague of “journalistic cowardice.” All, of course, for Posnanski’s failure to properly document Paterno’s complicity in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Indeed, the book mainly has Sandusky to thank for its commercial ascent.
But I suspect Paterno also owes its success to our preposterous sepia-toned ideal of the coach. After news broke that storied former University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal had died, ESPN’s Ivan Maisel recalled the values he embodied: “integrity, respect and a romanticized past.” A past doesn’t just get “romanticized” on its own. If you want a nostalgia-trip, if you are looking for the good old days, Paterno does not disappoint.