If you love Walter Payton …

… you’ll love his induction speech into the College Football Hall of Fame—circa 1996.

At his best, Walter Payton could be as gracious and charming as they came. He was a brillient public speaker. This wasn’t his best work, but it was damn good. One of his great strengths was in reading people … in reading audiences. People would come expecting to hear stories about Jim McMahon and Richard Dent, but leave 100 times more fulfilled from listening to a unique man speak of his life.

17 thoughts on “If you love Walter Payton …”

  1. Jeff, I find it absolutely disgusting that you an accomplished Author would find the greed in yourself to find the need to write a book like this. True or not the fact that you waited this long to write a book about a man who passed away 11 years ago is just disgraceful. I have no respect for a person who out of personal interest and financial gain would take the life of a deceased man and shame him by writing a book about his personal life long after he has passed. Everyone has personal issues throughout their life and for you to single out a man like this and piss on his grave by bringing up events he cannot defend himself on is dispicable and you should be ashamed. This is proof they will publish anything….This is a disgraceful use of literature and I hope this book fails because all this shows is a man full of greed hoping to earn money off of disclosing the private life of a deceased man.

  2. Mr.Pearlman,
    I find it very distasteful that you would bring up things on a man that has been gone for 12yrs. Someone that can’t defend themselves!!!! You are a coward!!! Try writing about people that can respond, an let the dead rest in peace!!!!!!! I hope your fortunes from this come full circle an destroy your personal life!!!!!!!!!!!!! I for one will remember him for what he did for football, not what you happen too write!!! Always remember what goes around, comes around! I hope it hits you deep in your family soul!!

  3. Walter Payton's GREATNESS Lives on the Field!

    Wow, you write a STALE, utterly irrelevant tell-all book a DOZEN YEARS after Sweetness’ passing — it must have taken all of your so-called JOURNALISM skills to dig out those FOGGY ACCOUNTS from your alleged on- and off-the-record sources! I’m totally unimpressed you get Walter’s former executive assistant quoted in this TELL-ALL TRIPE you call a novel. You have no shame or ethics in digging up this OLD info on a truly beloved RB great of all-time — hope you enjoy your book profits, you bottom-feeding media vulture!

  4. It’s interesting how no one ever criticized him here in the Chicago media. Every once in a while something would slip about his “playfulness”, and the kind of malicious, practical jokes he’d engage in. Still, many really supremely talented athletes have the tendency to be incredible assholes (Michael Jordan, anyone?), but we accept their mean-spiritedness and arrogance because they can dunk, or shoot the puck, or get the ball in the end zone. At the same time, writing a salacious book about a guy who’s been dead for a decade, and has no way to defend himself, is way beyond the pale. Bad form.

  5. What a freaking hack! You want to make a name for yourself writing trash about Clemens and Bonds, go ahead! No one cares. I just hope to be watching the news the day of your book signing in Chicago. Oh, you probably won’t be doing that, now will you? And, by the way, learn how to spell! It’s “solemn” not “solumn”. Even hacks should be able to scrape a few nickels together and buy a dictionary (or turn on your spell check). You’re dirt, buddy. Don’t ever let yourself believe you’re a journalist. You’re dirt and I’m sure the people around you know it too.

  6. I suppose it’s inevitable that any beloved public figure is eventually sullied with unflattering details about their private lives. We have little way of knowing which of your assertions about Walter are true, if any, and which are just hearsay or even invention. I certainly won’t be reading it, much less buying it. But if you have a conscience, perhaps you could donate, say, at least 10 percent of your ill-gotten gains from this sad exercise in grave-dancing to the foundation or the top-notch school that bear his name. It’s the least you can do, if you really consider yourself a journalist. Or is it all about how much money YOU can make?

  7. Sir

    It is reprehensible to write a book such as this. Walter Payton has been gone since 1999 and now you choose to write a book such as this. What pleasure, outside of a large advance do you get from this? He owed us his performance on the field and no more. Would your reputation hold up under close scrutiny? Enjoy your blood money.

  8. Jeff,
    To begin, I’d like to admit that I respect you as both a writer and passionate sports fan. Works of yours such as The Rocket That Fell To Earth and Love Me, Hate Me are very important stories especially during this “steroid era” of baseball. With this in mind, it is deeply distressing to see a hero so large as Walter Payton added to your book resume. I don’t say this because I believe the facts of your book to be false, but instead because of his TRAGIC passing nearly 12 years ago.

    No one here is talking highlights or record books, but instead about a legacy that has become larger than life especially in the state of Illinois. I am only 20 years old, so my passions for Walter fall far short of those who actually experienced his career, but none the less I feel strongly compelled to express my feelings of utter disgust. You have dedicated, what I imagine, many hours of your life composing a piece of literature that reveals the dark side of Payton which no one cares to realize. Is it really all for money? Walter continues to motivate and inspire so many, and you want to stomp on his grave? Walter can’t even defend himself…he’s been gone for 12 years.

    I’m sorry for the grim comment, as I am sure this is one of many you might receive from us Chicagoans who hold our beloved Sweetness so close to our hearts. Its only our nature that we stand behind those who have given us all so much. In my 20 year lifetime, I have never seen my father cry. He’s the tough guy type, one of many who’s attitudes on life were inspired in large part by Payton’s “never die easy” mentality. On November 1, 1999 my father balled like a baby. His hero was gone…..12 years later a sportswriter, as well known and respected as yourself publishes this. Its sad to say the least. I hope you do well man, I know it wont be in Chicago though.

  9. Mr. Pearlman,

    How could you claim that your goal was to write a definitive book about Walter Payton when the buzz surrounding your book is only salacious?

    A true book about Walter Payton would describe how this man had the will and dedication required to be arguably the greatest football player of all time yet was known for his humility and gentleness. “Thank you for calling the Chicago Bears, my name is Walter, how can I help you?”

    Its true, a book about Walter wouldn’t be definitive if it only focused on his public persona, it would have to reveal his personality. However, in reading the accounts of the book and your own description it has become painfully obvious that you’ve failed in your objective. Nobody is perfect and Walter never claimed to be, but your book appears to be written from the angle that Walter is a fraud or disturbed or an enigma; somehow not what he led us to believe.

    To be fair, I originally thought I needed to read your book before commenting on its validity. After reviewing your website and your reading the section “Why this book exists” I now realize reading it would be a waste of time. In your own words, when you decide to write a book you are looking for the negative aspects of your subjects. For example, you write, “We all have struggles. We all have dark days. We all have doubts and letdowns and pain and hurt. Those are the things that, I believe, make us who we are.”

    This statement has validity, but when taken with other statements, your true intentions become clear; you are going to focus on the negative. Its the only way you know how to try to make yourself relevant.

    You also say, “One walks away from Never Die Easy (A biography of Walter released shortly after he died) thinking Payton’s life was one of flowers and candy; that he was a man of few doubts; of unwavering positivity; of nonstop strength from birth to death. Which, if you’ve lived more than three weeks on earth, you know to be an impossibility.”

    While its fair to take into account the hard parts of life and how people react to them, you have to balance that out with the good.

    Its not a coincidence that the SI (one of your employers) piece drops the ‘juicy details’. A real book about Walter would have been able to relate to the reader how and why Walter achieved greatness in a physical sport yet was nicknamed Sweetness. Did you know Mike Ditka said not only was Walter the best all around football player he ever saw, but, as a long time NFL coach and leader of men, Walter was the only player who actually made him a better coach and person?

    Sure Walter had problems, nobody would have expected any different. He is a hero because despite his epic accomplishments and will (legendary hill he used to climb to supplement his work-outs) he was still a real person, that all fans, even children knew as ‘Walter’.

    Its ok for him to have problems, it just makes us wish we could have helped him, to pay him back for being an inspiration to us. It was never about him, it was always about the team, the Bears and the City of Chicago. Even if he had faults or moments he’d like to take, he had too much history of doing things the right way for someone like yourself, who is just trying to shine in his spotlight, or make a quick buck off of, a – la the National Enquirer. Pretty disappointing effort on your part.

    I had heard long ago that Walter was divorced. Its disingenuous to insinuate he was an adulterer because he had a girlfriend if he was separated from his wife. I believe you are trying to grab headlines, not create a definitive account of a sports hero, mortal or not.

    The more I understood your motivation, the more I started to feel sorry for you. Just look at he titles of your other books: ‘The Rocket that fell to Earth’ and ‘The Bad guys won’. Your work isn’t literature its sensationalism. Its easy to be negative, but its much harder to be positive, to create something.

    A real book about Walter Payton would allow us to directly relate and understand what’s it like to play over a decade in the NFL and miss one game because of a funeral, a real book about Walter Payton would make us understand how to make those we work with better, a real book about Walter would let us imagine what its like to craft your body into a world class form, to treat all the team’s employees nicely, be nicknamed Sweetness, yet be known for punishing the defensive players paid to tackle you…to dive over the pile and score a touchdown.

    A real account of Walter would use his accomplishments as background for his life after football, whether it was the going good or bad for him at the time.

    Michael Jordan said in his farewell speech that Chicago will always be in his heart. You need to know that all Chicagoans and Bears fans will always have Walter in our hearts.

    Did you interview any Bears fans? Even 13 years after his death, I have yet to have a conversation about Walter when at the mention of his name a reflective pause or silence doesn’t immediately follow. That reverence was earned and its real.

    I also heard Ditka say, noone knew Walter was sick until it was too late. Implying, if we had only known we would have done everything we could to help him. At 45 years of age, it was too early in his life for the City to thank him for what he did and represented. For you to come along after he has died, without proper context, and try to pawn your gossip as serious literature is pathetic.

    In every article I have read about your book, this same sentiment was given by Bears fans. I don’t see how you will ever get satisfaction from authoring this book or enjoying the good things it may provide you.

    What would Walter say about your book, or better yet, what does this book say about you?

    If you ever want to be taken seriously you need to retract this book. You and everyone involved in its publication should be ashamed.

  10. Nicholas J. Yannabaparopolis

    Karma is truly a MotherF**Ker, And there is a large dose out there waiting for you. So sad that 11 years after the mans death, you would feel compelled to satisfy your wallet with this type of writing. You are indeed another example of whats wrong with this country and society today. The five second headline. Best you remove your head out of your behind and leave the Heros who have gone to their rest alone.

  11. Mr. Pearlman,

    I am appalled by the notion that this book was even written. It literaly serves NO purpose. To bring to light the struggles Walter Payton faced and paint them in the manner in which you did is completely unnecessary and disrespectful to him, his family, and his legacy. Everyone struggles with certain things in their personal lives. Do you really think that by writing this trash, you are going to change people’s perception of Walter?

    You have no clue what Walter Payton really meant to others. The countless people and generations he inspired to be better people. The lives forever changed just by knowing him or being around him. Its seems the only thing you inspire is hate-mail.

    If you seriously plan on writing other books, I hope for your sake, they are about some of the thousands of relative and meaningful subjects that are so readily available in today’s world of sports. And not about how you can profit from salaciously revealing some irrelevant struggles and “maybe-truths” on a fallen hero.

    Then maybe people will create charitable foudations and schools in your name. But I highly doubt it.

    Wade Smith

  12. I don’t believe you. Your rationalizations sound like just that, rationalizations. You act like you’re doing some public service, when clearly, all your goals are selfish and mercenary.

    If somewhere — anywhere — I had seen this book sold as a “balanced” perspective on the great Walter Payton your words might have some grain of credibility. But I haven’t. All I’ve seen anywhere, all of SI’s excerpt, is ONLY about the drugs and the cheating and the depression. You can say what you want but you’re not making your money because of the fabulous sides of Walter Payton. You’re making your money off of his weaknesses and for that, you should be ashamed.

  13. Walter Payton's GREATNESS Lives on the Field!

    Hey, Mr. Pearlman, judging from the overwhelmingly sincere and heart-wrenching comments here about what Walter Payton meant to us Chicago Bears and NFL fans out there, it really makes the title of your book, “The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton” all the more inane and counterintuitive in its most basic premise. We ALL knew what Walter stood for on- and off-the-fied — a man with genuine heart (the good and the bad, even if we didn’t pry into his personal life like you) and the 100-percent effort he gave EVERY SECOND he took to the football field.

    One of my fondest memories, in fact, was a video I once saw over 20 years ago of a pre-adolescent, teenage Walter Payton trying out for “Soul Train” and being one of the most lovable, wonderfully goofy and entertaining guys on this planet — even as he was dancing to a dated Jackson Five-type musical diddy (it may have been that or Earth Wind & Fire, my memory fails me). That is one of those signature moments about Walter Payton — one of those endearing, “sweetest” souls you could meet during our lifetimes.

    And that is why I feel the entire premise of Walter being an “enigma” is so utterly failing and mistaken in its core premise — I truly feel sorry for you that as a journalistic looking to dredge up a true “man’s” life 12 years after his passing (and with your alleged 648 interview subjects), you entirely miss the point of made Walter’s personality so uniquely imprinted in our collective memories of “Sweetness'” true personality. If you don’t understand it or just wrote the “enigma” part of this to sell books, then you are truly blind and soulless for not according Payton the respect and love he’s earned over an entire LIFETIME of positive contributions. I hope your conscience can sleep at night for writing what is such a Johhnny-come-lately, pulp fictionalized, sensationalized piece of pablum trash!

  14. Walter Payton's GREATNESS Lives on the Field!

    Just to serve as one of those reminders of the FEROCITY, TENACITY and HEART of “Sweetness,” take a look at this true “shock-and-awe” YouTube video highlight reel of Walter Payton putting the smackdown on his gridiron foes at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJeTgQ-lgvE&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL57D37EDCABA24D9E.

    Believe me, there is NOTHING at all “enigmatic” about Walter Payton’s life (as the lame title of Pearlman’s book limply implies) — he left nothing on the field and never claimed to be a saint (more like a warrior on the gridiron!)….Sweetness bared everything in terms of his courage in life and death! Sweetness’ spirit and inspiration lives in all of us Bears fans….and those who love football and admire what Sweetness eternally exemplified about what is the best about the NFL. Sweetness, you still live in my memories and soul!!

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