Paterno’s final days: no bitterness, just marveling at his fortunate life – Sports Illustrated
In the moments after Joe Paterno died, it became common for people to write and say that he died of a broken heart. He did not. Joe Paterno died of lung cancer and the complications it caused. He did not die a bitter or broken man.
Joe Posnanski spent the fall in State College preparing to write a book at Joe Paterno and Happy Valley. It was something that I looked forward to reading, even though I have read countless Paterno biographies. Posnanski is just such a good writer and I was sure he would come up with a great book that would provide additional illumination.
Paterno had said that he would not speak with Posnanski due to the commitments of running the program, but following the dark days that Jerry Sandusky brought to Penn State, Paterno had the time. Aware of his mortality facing lung cancer, Paterno changed his mind and spoke with Posnanski.
I am sure there will be more in Posnanski’s book, but this short article makes it pretty clear that the “died of broken heart” narrative is a false one. All of those books and all that I knew of Paterno suggested this would not be the case and this confirmed it. Cancer (especially diagnosed as late as Paterno’s was) and cancer treatments puts a tremendous toll on someone. I suspect the latter proved to be the specific cause of Paterno’s death.
I am still trying to piece together my thoughts on Paterno’s legacy and it may be a few days yet. I need to give the same consideration to that as I did my post-Sandusky posts that were critical of him. I stand by those, but they are not the whole story by a long shot.
Hazleton – Curiously Long Posts, Sports Illustrated
After spending all fall in State College working on a book at Joe Paterno and what he meant to the Penn State community at large (impeccable timing!) Sports Illustrated columnist Joe Posnanski traveled east along Interstate 80 for a little while to see Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon’s hometown of Hazleton.
My first two years of college were at Penn State Hazleton and I lived in the borough of West Hazleton which is right next to the city of Hazleton. As I have mentioned before, it was an interesting experience. For one thing, growing up in sprawling Northern Virginia, the idea of firmly entrenched white/ethnic neighborhoods and the rivalries between them was eye-opening. I predicted that those rivalries would probably fade as Hispanics moved in; I can’t speak about the former, but the latter has drawn national attention for several years. Maddon is working with family who still live there to build a community center and wants “kids growing up in Hazleton now to look back someday and remember only good things from their childhood.”
And the people around him also nod in agreement when he says that Hazleton isn’t like that anymore. There are cracks in the sidewalk, closed storefronts and blankness where downtown once lit up. Maddon says that even the traffic lights have dimmed.
More: There’s distrust. Many people seem to know why. The Hispanic population has grown dramatically in Hazleton over the last decade or so. According to census numbers, there were about 250 people who identified themselves as Hispanic in 1990, barely over 1,000 in 2000. Now, there are almost 10,000 Latinos living in Hazleton. They have come for jobs, for more affordable housing, for the small town charms that not so long ago brought in the Maddonnis and Scarcellas and Barlettas and Palahniuks.
I wish Maddon and Hazleton luck, even though I have been hard on it over the years. The disparate groups need to realize that they all want to be there and build off that because for 50-60 years, people have been fleeing for better opportunities.
On the list of books that need to be written, another biography of Joe Paterno was not high. I already have Paterno: By The Book, the autobiography, George Paterno’s The Coach From Byzantium, The Lion in Autumn and several others in my personal library. However if anybody is going to write about these interesting times that Penn State’s iconic football coach is going through right now, Joe Posnanski is as good as anyone. Posnanski is the kind of sportswriter you don’t need to follow via RSS, Twitter or whatever, because somebody you know already is following him and will share/RT his latest offering.
Anybody notice that most books about Paterno are written when he is facing challenging times?