Dokoupil, Tony, Newsweek
Byline: Tony Dokoupil
Will a feel-good sportswriter be too nice to Father Joe?
"everything has been just sort of this big, wonderful surprise." That's how nice-guy sportswriter Joe Posnanski recently described his career. But he may want to scratch the word "wonderful." Eighteen months ago he embarked on a sunny biography of one of America's most loved characters, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. In a proposal sent to publishers, Posnanski outlined how he won over Paterno and his family, promising the story of "a remarkable life and the many people who have been touched by it."
He was eight months into all-access reporting when Paterno was fired, and the word "touched" took on its heinous new meaning. But over the next seven months he stayed with his subject, trying to reconcile the "Father Joe" he befriended with the vile portrait being drawn by others. He wrote the book this spring, before the NCAA's decision to vacate more than 100 of Paterno's wins and an investigation damned the coach's "total and consistent disregard" for the welfare of children.
Depending on whom you ask, the heavily guarded manuscript will be either the last nail in Father Joe's coffin or the first brick in his new cathedral. The publisher is promising "the fullest description we will ever have of the man's character and career." "It was never a gauzy Father's Day book," says Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp, which is hard to believe in light of the initial pub date, Father's Day 2013.
Posnanski, a writer for a new USA Today/Major League Baseball venture, is beloved--and not for his sharp-elbowed profiles. He criticized the "moralistic and judgmental" tone his peers took with Tiger Woods, and has a gift for blowing dandelion seeds on his own subjects, no matter how sad. …