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 reffered 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? 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 when we heard his comments on the Jenn Sterger-Brett Favre-Sexting scandal, it’s clear he’s a confused old man who should be muted in the media.
(Go here to read those comments)
McMichael’s meat-headedness is more calcualted and contrived. He’s a lot smarter and clever than Ditka, so I’ll let his comments slide. To see how McMichael works on numerous levels go here and here.
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
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.
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