The problem with publishing the Joe Paterno biography

It’s hard to remember these days that once upon a time, Joseph Paterno was above all described as “America’s winningest college football coach, who changed the country one football player at a time.”

Indeed, in the ongoing aftermath of a scandal that rocked both sport and nation alike, Paterno is now more immediately–if not exclusively–recognized as one of several powerful men that for 14 years “failed to take any steps” to protect child sexual abuse victims, some of which were suffering under his supposedly hallowed locker-room roof.

It is in this pickle of epithets that book publisher Simon & Schuster currently finds itself when it comes to the handling of one of its upcoming releases.  That book?  Sportswriter-turned-author Joe Posnanski’s biography Paterno.

The book, announced in March 2011 alongside the aforementioned “winningest coach” label, is set to hit stores in August, and the New York based publishing house is doing everything in its power to quiet its release. The New York Times reports that this backpedaling act has included scaling back a planned book tour and limiting interviews with Posnanski.

The now tarnished legacy of the recently deceased coach (a legacy that includes the recent revelation that he reworked his contract in 2011 as the scandal worsened, sweetening his own retirement package) would be impetus enough for the face-saving actions, so it’s only made matters worse that Posnanski himself has come under fire in recent months.  In January he caught heat for characterizing the abuse as a “single, hazy event,” and in the past couple of weeks early readers of the book have lamented the fact that the biography is short on fresh details about the scandal itself.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the book thus far has come from Posnanski’s former employer, Sports Illustrated.  The magazine, whose latest issue features a cover story covering Penn State’s demise, passed on running an excerpt from the biography.

Read More on EW.com:
Longtime Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno Dead at 85
Ex-Penn State Assistant Sandusky Found Guilty of Sex Abuse
Dream Team Doc Gets to the Bottom of Isiah Thomas Blackball?

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