In the summer of 2011, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno allowed the journalist Joe Posnanski, then a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, to join him in State College, Pennsylvania, to spend the upcoming season writing his biography. This afforded Posnanski access to Paterno and his inner circle as the Jerry Sandusky scandal engulfed the campus and the nation. The September 2012 issue of GQ, on newsstands now, features an exclusive excerpt of Posnanski's biography, "Paterno. "The full excerpt is available at GQ.com, and Paterno will be available in bookstores Tuesday. Here are some highlights:
Paterno's son, Scott, was the first in the family to understand the severity of the case against Jerry Sandusky and what it would mean for his father:
As Scott struggled through the details, he grew angrier and angrier. He had known Sandusky for much of his life. He had showered in those athletic showers as a boy, with Sandusky undoubtedly in the same room. How was this possible? And the angrier he became, the more he understood that his own anger would be multiplied by the explosive reaction of millions of Americans who had never heard of Jerry Sandusky.
Those millions, most of them, had heard of Joe Paterno.
"Dad," he asked his father again, "did you know anything about Sandusky?"
"Other than the thing Mike told me, no," Joe answered.
"Nothing? No rumors? The coaches never talked about it?"
"No. I don't listen to rumors. Nothing."
"Dad, this is really important. If there is anything you heard..."
"I didn't hear anything, why are you badgering me? What do I know about Jerry Sandusky? I've got Nebraska to think about, I can't worry about this." Nebraska was the next game.
"I had to do everything I could to not cry right then," Scott recalled.
The grand jury presentment in the Sandusky case was released on a Saturday. Paterno did not read it immediately, but Guido D'Elia, a close family adviser, was among those urging him to do so:
On Monday, the family tried to persuade Paterno to read the presentment. He objected that he already knew what was in there, but they told him there was no room left for illusion. D'Elia would remember telling him, "You realize that the people out there think you knew about this? They think you had to know because you know about everything."
"That's their opinion!" Paterno shouted. "I'm not omniscient!"
"They think you are!" D'Elia roared back.
Paterno "sobbed uncontrollably" the day after Penn State fired him, but he was able to gather himself quickly:
When Friday came, though, Joe was different. The crying was over. Nobody would ever see him cry again. Nobody would see him discouraged again. "It was like a transformation," daughter Mary Kay said. "He had one bad day. But after that, he was positive."
"You know what?" Joe said. "I'm not going to feel sorry for myself. Are you kidding? I've lived a great life. Healthy children. Healthy grandchildren. Loving wife. I look around the world and see people who have real problems, serious problems. I'm the luckiest guy."
A few days later, it was announced that Paterno had lung cancer. He had not felt well for a few weeks, but he would not have gone to see the doctor had he still been coaching. In their press release, the family described it as "treatable." They always did hope for the best.
-- For the complete excerpt, go to GQ.com.
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