HBO’s Paterno, an excuse for Al Pacino to put on makeup and shuffle around in what were essentially pajamas, premiered Saturday. The movie covered when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, and the leadup to Penn State firing football coach Joe Paterno. The Paterno family called the movie “a fictionalized portrayal of the events surrounding Jerry Sandusky’s crimes,” which, no shit. You’re in no rush to watch the entire thing, but there is one scene worth your attention.
In a 2013 interview with Katie Couric, Paterno’s wife Sue claimed she and Joe didn’t know that Sandusky was a pedophile; after all, she said, in the 1970s they allowed their children to swim with Sandusky. In the movie, Sue (played by Kathy Baker) discusses it with Joe, which sets up this dream sequence:
In the dream, AlPa as JoePa jumps into a pool filled with kids as a young Sandusky is shown in the water throwing a kid in the air. JoePa can’t swim! (Something about being in too deep, or in over his head. It’s subtle.) The kids surround him in the water and he realizes, maybe, he should have noticed Sandusky’s behavior earlier. Then JoePa wakes up. It’s similar to Ebenezer Scrooge after his visit with the ghosts of Christmas—except in this version, Scrooge gets fired and dies. The scene of JoePa, struggling in the water, will haunt my own dreams for a long time.
PennLive actually did a fact-check on this bit, referencing that Couric interview:
If Paterno ever did have a dream about Jerry Sandusky swimming with his kids that caused him to bolt upright in bed, it’s nothing that ever been shared with us.
It is true Sue Paterno contended in a television interview in 2013 that the fact the Paternos let their kids play in a swimming pool with Sandusky in the 1970s was proof they didn’t know he was a pedophile.
That story is the premise that sets up the dream sequence, in which a concerned Joe Paterno suddenly dives into the pool and appears to sink away.
That swimming pool anecdote definitely became part of the Paternos defense, and Levinson deftly worked it into the story, but it’s not clear if she and Joe had had that discussion.
This, and not the scene where Sara Ganim’s editor writes “ANAL RAPE” on the whiteboard, was the wildest part of Paterno.