You will recall that three years ago Joe Paterno was college football's unicorn, and you will recall that two months ago, the late Joe Paterno—and his role in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal that engulfed Penn State—starred in Joe Posnanski's lamentable Paterno. We all have decided to do the best we can forgetting Paterno and Paterno.
But if there's any reason to summon Paterno or Paterno from the recesses of your mind, we've found it in, of all things, a 2009 blog post by John Feinstein:
Last winter I went up to Penn State and had lunch with my pal Malcolm Moran, who used to work at The New York Times and USA Today and is now some kind of distinguished professor at Penn State. Malcolm arranged for me to meet with a marketing guy who has become very close to Paterno in recent years. The point of the meeting was simple: get me in the door to talk to Paterno. Unlike Dean Smith, who I have known well for 30 years, I don't know Paterno well at all. I met him years ago while covering college football for The Washington Post. Back then, his SID, the great John Morris, used to invited media members to meet informally with Paterno on Friday nights and I attended a few of those get-togethers. I had also written to Paterno several years ago asking if I could come up and talk to him about a "season," book. It was the year they were ranked No. 1 for much of the year before being upset by Minnesota. That, as it turned out, started the four year spiral.
Anyway, I got a very nice letter back from Paterno saying he admired my work, listened to me on NPR but simply couldn't deal with the distraction of having someone around that way for an entire season. I was hoping to get into the room with him to explain that I had become pretty good at hanging around without being a distraction and tell him how it would work. I never got the chance.
I didn't get the chance this time either. After I had explained why I wanted to do a Paterno biography—for reasons similar to why I wanted to do a Dean Smith biography; Paterno's extraordinary legacy beyond the football field being key—his friend Guido D'Elia shook his head and said, "I agree with you a book like that needs to be done. But that's legacy stuff. Joe's not ready for legacy stuff yet."
To which I replied, "Has anyone told him that he's 82?"
The answer was direct: "No. We wouldn't dare."
I know that was true because earlier I had contacted Ernie Accorsi, the ex-Giants GM who had worked for Paterno early in his career. Ernie was all for the project and contacted George Welsh, the retired Virginia coach (who I know well) about helping me out. Welsh was Paterno's top assistant before becoming the coach at Navy. Ernie finally called back and said, "I don't think we can help you."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because we're both scared if we tell Joe he should talk to you he might yell at us."
He was serious. Boy is Paterno a fascinating guy.
Yep, that book could have existed.