Joe Posnanski didn't go to Happy Valley to write about the unhappy end of Joe Pateno's life and career. He intended it as an eternal Father's Day gift, a sappy and sentimental picture of the aging lion in repose. It was originally scheduled to be released in time for Father's Day, and Posnanski said of Paterno (well after the scandal had broken) that "when it comes to morality clauses, in that way, he is Father Joe."
Well, a child rape scandal happened. And Paterno was swept up and cast out. The defining sports story of the year, and an unthinkable coda to a legend's life, and here was one of our nation's most celebrated sportswriters with incredible access. The book could have been great. It could have been timeless. It could have been important.
Instead, it's a rush job that's not going to spend much time dwelling on nasty things like university-consuming sex crimes that Paterno is, fairly or not, forever associated with.
"It's a very, very different book now," Posnanski said. "But, in many ways, it's still the same. It's still about his life – a life that changed dramatically at the end. And in the last three months of his life, when nobody else had access to him, I was with him quite a bit."
It is Sandusky's trial, not Paterno's. But it will reveal the fruits of months of prosecutorial investigations into the institutional failures of Penn State, including the actions and inaction of Joe Paterno. We will learn more than we ever dreamed about the coach's role in the State College Kingdom over the last decade. None of that will be in Posnanski's book, which, even if it couldn't quite make it out for Father's Day, will come out just in time to greet Penn State students from the shelves of the student bookstore on the first day of school. (The publication date listed on Amazon is in August.)
The timing just confirms what we've long known: that Joe Posnanski's love letter to Joe Paterno will be a sunny fantasy of a profile, dealing with the very hard questions by avoiding them. It will capture Paterno not as he was—a complicated, conflicted person overtaken by a situation beyond his capability to comprehend—but as his votaries want him to be. Father Joe, in glossy hardcover. The perfect book for Penn State fans.