Rick Reilly Knew About Joe Paterno, Everything Else Before You Did

By Finesse

This post is not about the Penn State scandal; it’s about people who make things up.

Rick Reilly’s latest column on ESPN.com opens with this anecdote:

In 1986, I spent a week in State College, Pa., researching a 10-page Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year piece on Joe Paterno. 

It was supposed to be a secret, but one night the phone in my hotel room rang. It was a Penn State professor, calling out of the blue.  

“Are you here to take part in hagiography?” he said.  

“What’s hagiography?” I asked.  

“The study of saints,” he said. “You’re going to be just like the rest, aren’t you? You’re going to make Paterno out to be a saint. You don’t know him. He’ll do anything to win. What you media are doing is dangerous.”  

Jealous egghead, I figured.  

What an idiot I was. 

Think about the premise you have to accept to believe that this is true: Reilly is on a secret mission to State College, but a professor finds out not just about the mission, but also about where Reilly is staying, then decides to call Reilly blindly and anonymously in Reilly’s hotel room to chastise him for doing his job as a reporter, and then ups the douchiness-ante by dropping a ridiculous vocabulary word that no one has ever said in real life … and by the most miraculous of coincidences, just happens to impart wisdom that is ever-so-prescient 25 years later. 

In the spirit of making up anecdotes, here are some other things people have told Rick Reilly.

– In 1984 Reilly was on vacation in the Caribbean and a cabana boy came up to him with an anonymous letter postmarked from Eugene, Oregon. It said only, “Don’t be pococurante about letting Nicole marry OJ Simpson. You have to stop it.” At the time, Reilly dismissed it as just another guy from Oregon who sends anonymous letters via cabana boys to people in St. Thomas. 

What an idiot Reilly was. 

– While watching the Parent Trap at a theater in 1998, a man sitting behind Reilly leaned over and whispered, “You see that little freckled redhead everyone thinks is going to be a huge star? Well you’re showing your nescience if you don’t realize that one day she’s going to be so cracked out that she loses a role as Linda Lovelace in a movie that not only will people not see, but people will demand not even be made.” At the time, Reilly thought this was just another stranger who likes to whisper things to you at the movies. 

What an idiot Reilly was. 

– While bowling with his wife in the late 1980s, the guy who hands out the bowling shoes approached Reilly during the 6th frame and said, “Beware of Larry Craig’s perfidiousness when he denies knowing the meaning of his wide stance.” At the time, Reilly thought this was yet another bowling alley employee passing on unsolicited advice about random people. 

What an idiot Reilly was.  

– While leaving Wrigley Field after a Cubs game in 1999, a tipsy Reilly stumbled into an alley to take a leak. Halfway through the act, he looked up at the brick wall in front of him and saw written in blood: “HEY RICK REILLY. WALL STREET BANKS THAT SELL SUB-PRIME MORTGAGES WILL CONTUMACIOUSLY RESIST INCREASED GOVERNMENT REGULATION IN THE LATTER PART OF THE NEXT DECADE.” Reilly thought this was just another juvenile defacing public property to send messages to strangers about the proper role of government regulation in a capitalist society. 

What an idiot Reilly was. 

 None of this is meant to address Reilly’s main points about Paterno. That’s for everyone to decide on their own. But as a wise Vietnamese garbage man who once Skyped my hotel room when I was traveling for business in Dallas told me, “An increasingly avaricious Rick Reilly will one day work for ESPN where he will peddle in transparently sophistical anecdotes, so all those old Sports Illustrateds you collected will turn out to be worthless.” Of course, I didn’t believe him. 

What an idiot I was.

2 thoughts on “Rick Reilly Knew About Joe Paterno, Everything Else Before You Did

  1. I had not previously read one column of the 22 godzillion written about the Penn State situation that made me laugh. Obviously this is not about the "situation" but represents one great piece of satire. Steven Colbert would be proud. Great job.

  2. I transcribe his interviews once in a while and he really gets to me. His voice is like nails on a chalkboard, he has corny jokes for days, and went to Green Bay and asked a million people if they were Packers fans.

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