Jon Wertheim appears on The Sports-Casters podcast this week. Wertheim has been part of Sports Illustrated’s coverage of Penn State and spent time with Joe Posnanski in State College.
When Sports-Casters’ Steve Bennett asked about the growing controversy over Posnanski’s upcoming book about the now tarnished coach, Wertheim emitted a large groan.
Clearly, he didn’t want to weigh in about a sensitive subject regarding his former colleague and somebody greatly admired in the sportswriting fraternity. However, years of enduring athletes and coaches duck the tough questions made Wertheim feel compelled to comment.
Like others, Wertheim, the author of seven books, thinks Posnanski and Simon & Schuster are making a mistake by rushing the book to market in August. He said:
My better instincts are telling me to say “no comment,” but there is something terminally lame about a journalist whose whole job it is to advance stories and get people to talk to play the no comment card.
It is just an impossible situation for Joe. Impossible. I suspect that if he knew any of this, he never would have ever taken this book deal. There is no way to put a good face on this. Whether we want to admit it or not, there are commercial pressures. I think that I would have not have gone along with my publisher’s wishes to capitalize on the timeliness and rush the book out for late this summer. There is no way that was going to end cleanly; it just couldn’t be done. We all knew that this Freeh report was coming; we know there is going to be civil litigation; and more stuff is going to come out.
There is a business decision and I get that. There is a publisher that has made a significant investment. But I think sometimes you need to just fold at the poker table. Joe did not want to be Sara Ganim. Joe had a certain book in mind and his research was geared toward that and this was a huge hairpin turn. He did not want to own the story and start competing with Sara Ganim.
I’m not sure how anyone benefits with rushing a book out. It takes advantage of the timing, but it’s awful timing. It’s timing that basically just obliterates Joe Paterno. If I’m (Posnanski), I may have just cut bait. I also might have said let’s really take a step back and wait…I have a feeling this is not going to be pretty.
The great lesson that Paterno may have taught (a player) pales in comparison to the cover-up. People who read the book will say they don’t care about (his great deeds). I worry this will be the literary version of the Matt Millen fiasco.
It all seems really insignificant in the face of this horrible story. I like Joe (Posnanski) personally. I like Joe professionally. I would love to see him do this book in 2014 when all the facts come out. In 2012, boy, how do you release a book about a guy when bombs are going off? I don’t envy him, but I have a hard time seeing how this plays out when you have a book six weeks after such a damming report comes out.