Battle & Buie: The Story Behind Our Cover Story
Most Alumni Association members should have their copy of our Sept/Oct issue, with basketball-playing brothers Talor Battle and Taran Buie on the cover. We guessed when we shipped the issue that it would generate some feedback, and that’s already been the case. We’ve received some compliments on the story, but also a handful of letters and phone calls expressing disappointment with the cover photo and the choice of subjects. I imagine we’ll get a few more before it’s all done.
(Not an Alumni Association member? You can read a PDF of the story here.)
For those who might be curious, here’s some background on how — and why — Battle and Buie ended up on our cover. The easy part is that Battle, a senior this year, is on pace to finish as arguably the best basketball player in school history.
He’s an NBA prospect who has put up terrific numbers the past three seasons and led the Nittany Lions to the 2009 NIT title, the only postseason championship in the program’s history. Buie, his younger brother, arrived as a freshman this summer and is arguably the most touted recruit Penn State has ever landed. Combine all that with their backstory — they’re sons from different fathers and a now-single mom who managed to raise them along with a house full of mostly younger siblings — and their potential impact on what could be a pivotal season for the program, and we found it too compelling a story to ignore.
The issues brought up by some readers have to do with the cover (click on the image at right to enlarge), and with Buie’s off-court behavior. It occurred to us after we’d chosen the photo that it was probably the first time in The Penn Stater’s history that someone with such prominent tattoos (that’s Buie on the right) had featured on the cover. While tattoos are widely accepted among the under-30 crowd, we know that for generational and cultural reasons, a lot of folks still really don’t like them. We’ve already heard from a few of them.
As for Buie, he’s got a track record as minor troublemaker, something he readily admitted to when I spoke to him. He and his family talked about him having matured, but two minor but well-publicized incidents over the summer — a disputed citation for fighting and another for underage drinking, the latter coming after our issue was at the printer — understandably brought out the skeptics. Having spent time with both young men and their mother, I’m cautiously optimistic that, from now on, Buie’s name will turn up in the sports section instead of the police blotter. Let’s hope so.
Ryan Jones, senior editor