Jeff Pearlman‘s new book Sweetness: the Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton is a complete biography; not a hagiography. It paints the greatest runner in Chicago Bears, possibly NFL history as a human being, not a saint.
Because that’s who Walter Payton was- a person with many virtues and faults, character concerns and contradictions, just like you or I. Payton was my favorite athlete as a kid (replaced by Deion Sanders as Payton retired and I went from childhood to my teen years), and as a seven-year-old I thought #34 walked on water.
As an adult I know better.
So should you.
So should the book’s detractors.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Payton’s former teammate and college football hall of famer Steve McMichael refered to the work of Pearlman as “Sensational journalism…yellow journalism. Half-crocked stories. Sounds like the National Enquirer, doesn’t it?”
McMichael’s attack on Pearlman didn’t stop there. You can read what he said about the author here.
“I think it’s ridiculous to me,” Payton’s coach Mike Ditka said on local radio.
“What’s the point? The point is one thing only — to sell books. That’s all it’s about. It’s a bunch of crap, first of all. If you’re going to wait 12 years after somebody’s passed, come on. This is the sign of a gutless individual who would do this. Totally gutless who would hide behind that, and that’s what he’s done.”
Well Ditka is acting like his usual meathead self.
Ditka has said some offensive and irritating things over the years, but usually he’s been no more dangerous than any other corporation disguised as a human being. But last fall when we heard his comments on the Jenn Sterger-Brett Favre-Sexting scandal, it’s clear that today he’s become a confused old man who should be muted in the media.
Now on to the actual book- of which I received a review copy from the publisher. I’ve read it cover to cover, and I’m telling you it’s a comprehensive, cumulative look at Payton’s life from all angles.
Crafted from interviews with more than 700 sources, Sweetness at last brings fans a detailed, scrupulously researched, all-encompassing account of the legend’s rise to greatness.
From Payton’s childhood in segregated Mississippi, where he ended a racial war by becoming the star of his integrated high school’s football team, to his college years and his twelve-year NFL career, Sweetness brims with stories of all-American heroism, and covers Payton’s life off the field as well. Set against the backdrop of the tragic illness that cut his life short at just forty- six years of age, this is a stirring tribute to a singular icon and the lasting legacy he made.
For an excerpt go here
- The final decade of Payton’s marriage to his wife, Connie, was merely for show. They lived in different houses, and while Connie appeared at events as “Mrs. Walter Payton,” he was dating a flight attendant from New Jersey (along with myriad other women). (PAGE: 259)
- The tragic and heartbreaking real story behind the racially charged death of Peter Payton, Walter’s father, who died all alone in a Columbia, Mississippi jail cell. Through his final days, Walter never forgave his hometown. (PAGES: 207-10, 221, 342)
- At his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Payton was visibly nervous. Though casual observers assumed he was overwhelmed by the day, the truth was striking: Payton’s wife, Connie, and his girlfriend, Lita, were both in the crowd, literally sitting one row apart. After the ceremony the two women met—and reached an understanding. (PAGES: 370-375)
But you gotta read this book yourself. And make up your own mind. It’s 420+ pages, and you have to read each and every one of them to get the full effect.
And now that I'm done being serious and thoughtful...Check out how hot Payton's local media celebrity daughter, Brittney Payton, is by going here.
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’s appeared on live radio 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