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Famous Last Words : The Publishing Craps Game

October 2012 By Denny Hatch
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On Nov. 22, 1963, consultant Paul Goldberg—with a huge mailing for Consumer Reports going out across the country—was having lunch with two colleagues at the Café Carlyle in New York. The maître d' came over to the table to report that President Kennedy had been shot.

"Oh my God!" said his companion on the left.

"Oh my God!" repeated the person on his right.

"Oh my mail!" said Goldberg.

Distraught Americans from coast to coast sat glued to television sets and threw out all their direct mail. Consumer Reports lost hundreds of thousands of dollars—both from the cost of the mailing and the loss of projected subscription income.

Bad timing. Bad Luck.

A Sportswriter's Ultimate Gig
I used to watch Penn State football games on television. The reason: In my 70s, I loved seeing coach Joe Paterno in his 80s storming up and down the field urging his players on, barking into the ears of his assistant coaches—backfield, offense, defense, line and special teams. Paterno was one of those indomitable people who planned to go through life with all flags flying until the day he dropped.

He also was beloved at Penn State. Not only the winningest coach in college football history, he made a ton of money and gave millions back to his employer. The Paterno Library on campus is the result of the Paterno family raising $13.75 million and donating $2 million of their own.

Paterno was a spectacular human being who lived large for nine decades.

Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star was twice voted best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press sports editors and is currently a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. When he was signed to write a biography of Joe Paterno by mega-publisher Simon & Schuster, he must have believed he had fallen into the honey pot. A $750,000 advance ain't chopped liver.

Announced as "a biography of America's winningest college football coach, who changed the country one football player at a time," it was scheduled for publication on Father's Day 2013. The rabid Penn State denizens who filled Beaver Stadium every week during football season—all 106,572 of them—would guarantee best-seller status for Posnanski's tome, let alone all the geezers like me who love to read about senior citizens setting the world on fire. Posnanski was virtually guaranteed riches beyond the dreams of avarice in his golden years.

 
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