"I am happy to say that everyone that I have met in my life, I have gained something from them; Be it negative or positive. It has enforced and reinforced my life in some aspect." - Walter Payton
Walter Payton is not only a Chicago sports hero. He is a national icon. Revered from coast to coast as arguably the greatest football player of all time.
Of course I say that with an inordinate amount of bias. I also believe it completely and whole heartedly.
And so, on the 60th anniversary of his birth, I am putting out this simple plea to the Chicago park district: It is time to give Payton's family and fans what they have deserved for many years. A monument. Something that properly displays our gratitude and love for the man and his accomplishments.
He needs a statue. Now! Preferably right out in front of Soldier Field. No other Chicagoan deserves one more. The only question is why doesn't he already have one?
An entire generation has gone by since Payton retired. That means there are people who are 30 years old who have no memory of watching the greatest running back in history play in Soldier Field. If there was ever a career that deserves to be commemorated by his city it is his.
After all, he spent all thirteen years in one uniform. And it was navy blue and burnt orange.
He gave more than just his blood, sweat and tears to Chicago, he also gave an exemplary amount of time and money. His charity work in this city has been surpassed by no other athlete before, during, or since.
Even now his name is synonymous with the Bears charities. You need to look no further than the annual toy drive at Soldier Field every December. You will always find Walter's family at the stadium on that day. In fact, Connie, Jarrett, and Brittany still spend a great deal of time in and around Chicago, meeting fans, taking pictures with them, and saying thank you.
I know at one time the park district's excuse was that Soldier Field is a war memorial and should commemorate those who gave their lives to their country. I am not going to dispute that here. But why isn't there a way to do both?
Here is my suggestion. On one side of the stadium erect a statue of a military man or woman from each of the armed forces. That would include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard. All in the appropriate uniform.
On the other side let's erect statues of the greatest Chicago Bears. Of course the Bears to be commemorated could be decided by a vote of fans throughout Chicago. My vote would be for Halas, Luckman, Ditka, Sayers, Butkus, and of course Payton. That is if you want each side of the building to have six statues.
And I don't want to hear the that's too many excuse. Look inside U.S. Cellular or around Wrigley. Both have several statues. Wrigley Field even has two erected of announcers ( Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray ). If need be, it can be four statues to a side.
I'm sure this is all too much for the leaders at the park district to get their heads around. So while it's up there for debate, might I make another suggestion?
This one has nothing to do with the district. When I was young I went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And as soon as I walked in the first thing I noticed was a statue of the great Jim Thorpe. Now, it has been many years since my last visit to 2121 George Halas Drive, so I don't know if that statue is still in the entryway.
But I think that same thing can be done in Chicago. As many of you know, in the city, there has just recently opened the Chicago Sports Museum. And that venue may just be perfect for a Walter Payton statue. Maybe even right in the entryway.
What do you say, Chicago? Let's make this happen. SOON!
Happy Walter Payton Day ( unofficially, of course ), everyone!
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