Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Unhappy Valley

I watched Paterno, HBO's drama about Joe Paterno and the Sandusky sex scandal that brought him down.

Directed by Barry Levinson and starring Al Pacino (who's been doing a lot of this in recent years, also portraying Phil Spector and Jack Kevorkian in TV movies), it's gotten a lot of publicity.  Too bad it's so poorly told.  Even the basic framing device, where Paterno thinks back on his life while getting an MRI, seems like a bad idea.

But it did bring back memories of the original story.  In 2010, Paterno, in his 80s, had been head coach of the Nittany Lions for over 40 years.  He was the king of Penn State, the most powerful, respected, beloved man at the college. (I saw something like this at the University of Michigan with Bo Schembechler, though I would guess JoePa was a much bigger deal.)

He was planning to retire, and must have looked back at his career and life with a good deal of satisfaction.

Then, in 2011, former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested for years of sexually abusing children.  It was a huge scandal that brought down the people around him, including Paterno, who had seemed untouchable. At first a lot of students were angry at the sudden dismissal by the Board of Trustees, who didn't even allow Paterno to finish out the season and retire, as he had planned. 

This happened in November 2011, and Paterno, who had heath problems, died in January 2012.  It seemed to many at the time it was the scandal that killed him.

PS  Was Pacino a good choice for the role?  Well, he's about the right age, and you've go to admit "Al Pacino" has the same rhythm as "Joe Paterno."

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