The legend of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was ultimately tarnished by the heinous crimes of Paterno assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Before Sandusky, however, there was another monster connected to the school’s football program —  one whose many unspeakable violations are only coming to light now, in Junod and Lavigne’s tireless, exhaustive investigation. This is a long, difficult piece. It’s also a necessary one.

And yet, just as there is a cost to keeping silence, there is cost to breaking it. Decades after Betsy called Ann to tell her what had happened on the night of Sept. 13, they both remain reluctant to speak the word that names what Hodne did to her. The daughter is now 64. The mother is 84. They are close; they know most of what there is to know about each other. But they both remember that phone call, and the weight of the word, and how breaking the silence broke them. They can say it now; they can say that Betsy was raped. But they still grieve each time they do. And both of them, far away from one another, in separate phone calls, still weep.

Source: ESPN
Published: Apr 11, 2022
Length: 126 minutes (31,519 words)

The Hero of Goodall Park

In 2018, a car careened onto a baseball field in Sanford, Maine, killing one spectator. Fifty years before, in upstate New York, a car had hit and killed a little girl. The two incidents were part of the same remarkable story.

Author: Tom Junod
Source: ESPN
Published: Jul 7, 2020
Length: 61 minutes (15,287 words)

My Friend Mister Rogers

Tom Junod remembers his friendship with Fred Rogers 16 years after Fred’s death and considers how Fred would have responded in today’s world, filled with regular mass violence and a growing lack of civility in political discourse and protest.

Author: Tom Junod
Source: The Atlantic
Published: Nov 7, 2019
Length: 28 minutes (7,113 words)

The Family Vice

Tom Junod reflects on his father’s gambling habit: “…he made people think he was a gangster when really he was just a mark.”

Author: Tom Junod
Source: ESPN
Published: Jan 21, 2019
Length: 12 minutes (3,214 words)

The Falling Man

Richard Drew’s photo of the man falling from the Twin Towers: in the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the record of September 11, 2001. The story behind it, though, and the search for the man pictured in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.

Author: Tom Junod
Source: Esquire
Published: Sep 11, 2016
Length: 29 minutes (7,385 words)

The State of the American Dog

“This is a story about an American dog: my dog, Dexter.” Through his personal story, Junod examines how pit bulls became so feared, so abused, and so neglected in the United States.

Author: Tom Junod
Source: Esquire
Published: Jul 16, 2014
Length: 25 minutes (6,430 words)

There’s a Whole New Way of Killing Cancer: Stephanie Lee Is the Test Case

Stephanie Lee, a 36-year-old Iraq War widow with two children is diagnosed with terminal colon cancer and told she has just a few years to live. A group of pioneering cancer specialists at the Icahn Institute at Mount Sinai use genetic data to figure out alternative treatments to “the standard of care” that could give her her life back:

His name was Ross Cagan. He did not work for Schadt; he worked as a professor at Sinai. But they met every week, and after Schadt called on October 1 to tell Cagan about Stephanie Lee, he listened to Cagan’s idea for her. A month earlier, Cagan had started doing something that he said “had never been done before.” He started creating “personalized flies” for cancer patients. He took the mutations that scientists like Schadt had revealed and loaded them into flies, essentially giving the flies the same cancer that the patient had. Then he treated them. “Why a fly? You can do this in a fly. You can capture the complexities of the tumor.”

A day after Cagan spoke with Schadt, Stephanie became the fifth person in the world to have a fly built in her image—or, rather, in the image of her cancer. In an ideal world, Cagan would have created as complex a creature as possible, burdening the fly with at least ten mutations. He gave Stephanie’s fly three, because “Stephanie is on the shorter course. We’re making the fly as complex as possible given her time.” By October 11, however, Cagan already had “one possible drug suggestion for her”—or one possible combination of drugs, since he always tests at least two at a time. “In this center, the FDA will not allow us to put a novel drug in patient. To get a novel drug into a patient, we have to do a novel combination of [known] drugs. We have to use novel drug combinations that people have never seen before.”

Source: Esquire
Published: Nov 20, 2013
Length: 60 minutes (15,090 words)

‘He has a long neck, upon which his long head, adorned by long ears, wobbles like a tulip’

Tom Junod’s profile of George Clooney, in which the actor takes on Russell Crowe, Tesla and Leonardo DiCaprio:

"And the thing about playing Leo is you have all these guys talking shit. We get there, and there’s this guy, Danny A I think his name is. Danny A is this club kid from New York. And he comes up to me and says, ‘We played once at Chelsea Piers. I kicked your ass.’ I said, ‘I’ve only played at Chelsea Piers once in my life and ran the table. So if we played, you didn’t kick anybody’s ass.’ And so then we’re watching them warm up, and they’re doing this weave around the court, and one of the guys I play with says, ‘You know we’re going to kill these guys, right?’ Because they can’t play at all. We’re all like fifty years old, and we beat them three straight: 11–0, 11–0, 11–0. And the discrepancy between their game and how they talked about their game made me think of how important it is to have someone in your life to tell you what’s what. I’m not sure if Leo has someone like that.”

Author: Tom Junod
Source: Esquire
Published: Nov 12, 2013
Length: 24 minutes (6,061 words)

Theater of Pain

A look at the culture of playing through your injuries in the NFL:

“But when you’re always hurting, how do you know when you’re hurt?

“You don’t. Not always, anyway. ‘A lot of times you don’t know exactly when the injury happens, because you’re taking drugs like Toradol or another kind of anti-inflam, so you’re feeling good,’ says Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. ‘Or maybe you’re dealing with a previous injury, like an ankle, and you’re taking Toradol, so you’re feeling a little bit better, but now all of a sudden everything is feeling a little bit better. Plus, you have the rush of adrenaline — so the injury might hurt a little, but you don’t really realize it. You might not feel it till the next day, or you may feel it that night. Because your mind-set is to play through everything you can, unless you cannot. And usually, it’s been my experience that when you come off the field after an injury, the trainer or the team doctor is meeting you. They’re like, ‘You haven’t moved your arm in thirty seconds. What happened?’ And you’re like, “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine — leave me alone.”‘”

Author: Tom Junod
Source: Esquire
Published: Jan 19, 2013
Length: 23 minutes (5,947 words)

The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama

[Not single-page] The origins and consequences of the Obama administration’s focus on drone strikes to kill enemy combatants:

“Of course, the danger of the Lethal Presidency is that the precedent you establish is hardly ever the precedent you think you are establishing, and whenever you seem to be describing a program that is limited and temporary, you are really describing a program that is expansive and permanent. You are a very controlled man, and as Lethal President, it’s natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidency. It’s even natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidencies of other countries, simply by the power of your example. But the Lethal Presidency incorporates not just drone technology but a way ofthinking about drone technology, and this way of thinking will be your ultimate export. You have anticipated the problem of proliferation. But an arms race involving drones would be very different from an arms race involving nuclear arms, because the message that spread with nuclear arms was that these weapons must never be used. The message that you are spreading with drones is that they must be — that using them amounts to nothing less than our moral duty.”

Author: Tom Junod
Source: Esquire
Published: Jul 9, 2012
Length: 41 minutes (10,371 words)