Not only did I look up to #34 as a kid, I had lunch with him and spent a day with him as a teen, and he was the nicest guy in the world. That fall day in 1999 when he passed was tough for me, because Payton died so young. Now I learn from a new Jeff Peralman book entitled “Sweetness: the Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton” that Payton not only died young, but had a pretty troubled life.
And wasn’t the nicest person in the world while he was alive.
Pearlman also details Payton’s use of the painkiller Darvon during his playing days and how he equipped an RV with nitrous oxide to use during training camp.
Once Payton’s career ended, he battled depression and often discussed suicide with close friends. Two failing relationships contributed to his malaise. Pearlman describes how Payton’s estranged wife and girlfriend both attended his Hall of Fame induction ceremony — “they were like ships passing in the night,” Payton’s assistant said — and made the triumphant weekend one of the worst of Payton’s life.
The book comes out next week, and it profiles Payton’s extramarital affairs, the crippling loneliness that plagued him in later life and (this will hit home for all of us who were touched by the suicide of Payton’s ’85 Bears teammate Dave Duerson) how much he contemplated suicide.
After football, many of our heroes seem to suffer from brain damage, among other serious illnesses. We hear many tales of players losing pensions, access to health care, and dying young. Sometimes dying young by their own choice.
It all goes to show you that football is something that’s really bad for you and your health- and you don’t see that until much later in life. The glory of youth (and for a select few adulthood) leads to terror in middle age, and in many cases the story ends in middle age.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
He does regular weekly radio spots in Chicago and Cleveland and has appeared on live shows all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too
Filed under: Chicago Bears
Tags: Chicago Bears, chicago bears news, new walter payton book, sweetness, sweetness walter payton book, Walter Payton, walter payton adultery, walter payton book, walter payton cheated on wife, walter payton drug abuse, walter payton news, walter payton painkiller, walter payton painkiller abuse, walter payton painkillers, walter payton suicide, walter payton suicide feelings, walter payton suicide thoughts