"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Speed the Plow

Check out this considered and well-reported piece by Noam Cohen about Joe Posnanski’s forthcoming biography on the late Joe Paterno in the New York Times:

Mark Kriegel, a sports columnist who has written biographies of Joe Namath and Pete Maravich, was more expansive. “I believe to do a biography, you need to love your subject, but you have to balance that passion,” he said. “On some level you have to love your subject, you have to have the devotion to your subject’s flaws and virtues. You have to care enough to become obsessed with your subject’s flaws.”

Creating distance is important, too. “In some ways that was easier for me with Namath, who didn’t cooperate,” Kriegel said.

…David Garrow, a longtime history professor whose biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Bearing the Cross,” touched on King’s personal failings, said it was important to challenge your subject, even one as celebrated as King. “We are not in the business of being uplifting — that could be myth, but it ain’t history,” he said. “The lives of saints is not history, it’s myth. I think it is a far more powerfully inspiring story for readers to appreciate the inescapability of human imperfection than to spin myths.”

According to the article, Joe Pos received $750,000 from Simon & Schuster to write the book, scheduled to be published this fall. It is a short turnaround from the events of last year at Penn State. Is that enough time to do the subject justice? We know that Joe Pos is nothing if not prolific. I’m eager to see if he can pull it off.

[Photo Credit: Samuels]


1 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 30, 2012 9:30 am

I'm definitely going to read this when it comes out, but I gotta be honest I don't have a great feeling about it. And it pains me to say that because I like/respect Posnanski.

But every public comment he has made since November shows that he got waaaaay to close to his subject to even feign objectivity. And that's fine when it's early-2011 and you just wanna make some "Tuesdays With Morrie" piece of fluff...God bless ya, that's your right.

But after everything we have learned the past six months, it becomes off-putting at best and blatantly irresponsible at worst.

2 Shaun P.   ~  Apr 30, 2012 11:14 am

[1] I am hopeful.

As a society, we often fail to take a measured response of everything that a person is/was. Its much easier to say (or write), "He was a monster" or "He was a saint", because it fits people's biases. This is particularly true just after a large event happens.

Remember when the Boss died? How many pieces actually gave a measured accounting of the guy, good and bad and everything else? I remember one, maybe two. Many pieces, of course, at least gave some accounting of some of the terrible things the Boss did. A lot of that was not emphasized, in favor of all the good things the Boss did.

As a society, we are also very, very, very quick to pronounce judgment based on speculation and opinion - particularly in the age of Twitter. Just look at what happened with Pineda's injury. We also make the mistake of thinking we "know" people we have never met, never interacted with (well, outside of Twitter a little bit, maybe).

The quick, evidence-less judgment I know is wrong, and the other is foolish, but understandable.

I've always found Pos to he a thorough, sensitive, evidence-based thinker and writer. I'm sure all of these issues have caused him grief in trying to present as full and evidence-based a story as he can. He spent months with guy, and I'm sure he wonders if he really knew him, either - yet is he just supposed to throw out the good Paterno did in light of the horrible that he did?

One other thing I know - there are many folks who could easily mess this story up; Pos is not one of them. No other sportswriter on the planet may be better suited for this task than him. We shall see.

3 NoamSane   ~  Apr 30, 2012 12:02 pm

I would add to what Shaun P. said, but he pretty much said everything I want to say.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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