Joe Paterno isn't his own worst critic. For 21 seasons Joe, Penn State's football coach, has been subjected to the sometimes withering scrutiny of his kid brother, George. As the color man on Nittany Lions radio broadcasts, 67-year-old George routinely second-, third-and fourth-guesses his 69-year-old sibling. "I get asked if Joe's wife, Sue, ever considered spiking my coffee with arsenic," George says in his sandpaper-on-sandpaper Brooklyn accent. "I say, 'Nah, she knows there's no viciousness in my comments.' But if I'm at the house for postgame lasagna, sometimes she won't give me an extra serving."
Being denied seconds of Saturday-night lasagna is about as chilly as it gets between them. "Joe and I are very close, but we do engage in polemics," allows George. "Joe will say, 'You're knowledgeable about football, but you're not as knowledgeable as you think.' " Yet George knows Joe well enough to sometimes foretell his next move on the field. "We're like the Corsican brothers, feeling each other's pain," says George. "In certain situations I feel what Joe will do."
Eccentric and independent, George commutes to Penn State games from his home in the seaside town of Southampton, N.Y. "In the winter, it's gorgeous," says the lifelong bachelor. "Solitude's different than loneliness. I'm a solitude guy. I take photographs, I write, I paint. Joe's a pragmatic idealist, and I'm a romantic idealist."
There are other differences. "I was the frivolous one," George says. "I wouldn't say I was a bon vivant, but I let it all hang out. Joe dominated. Even as a kid he was giving orders."
Young George also liked taking on kids bigger than he was. "One day George took on a kid a little too big," Joe recalls. "When George came home, my father laughed and my mother cried. George had that schnoz of his broken."
"What do you have to bring that up for?" deadpans George.
The Gold Dust Twins is what the Paterno boys (they have a younger sister, Florence) were called at Brooklyn Prep and, later, at Brown University. They were college roomies. "For one semester," George says. "Joe didn't like me playing pinochle."
"I was a conscientious student," says Joe, who spent two years in the military after high school.
"I had more fun."
"A little more."