Is the tide turning a tad?

Back after I wrote the John Rocker profile for Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s, people would mention the subject every … single … day. It lasted forever and ever and ever.

Then, eventually, it stopped.

This time around, people keep telling me, “The tide will turn.” They’re referring to my latest book, “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton,” which came out six days ago. As you all probably know, the release was preceeded by a Sports Illustrated excerpt that was greeted, mmm, not so warmly. No matter how many times I begged people to read the book first, I was—figuratively speaking—shouted down by the angry folk. And, truth be told, I understood that anger. From a certain vantage point, this looked to be a book that slammed Walter Payton.

Which, of course, it’s not.

So is the tide turning? Are people actually reading the book and discovering Sweetness is anything but an attack piece? I think so. A bunch of positive reviews. An appearance this evening on ESPN’s Outside the Lines alongside Emery Moorehead, the former Bears tight end who (gasp!) has liked what I’ve written. Increasing support on Twitter and Facebook. This means a lot to me, because I desperately want to be judged on the work as a whole, but just a sliver.

So, is the tide actually turning? Perhaps. Or maybe people just got tired of screaming and moved on.

Either way, I’m content.

7 thoughts on “Is the tide turning a tad?”

  1. You cannot compare the publicity between the John Rocker story and Walter Payton’s biography. A few things to consider:

    1. The Rocker story got the NY media involved. Remember his diatribe about the #7 train. We know how much more visible the NY media is over the Chicago media.

    2. Walter Payton has been dead over 10 years. John Rocker at the time was considered a rising star.

    3. The article got good play on Leno.

    4. John Rocker got called before the commissioner as a result. The article got an extended life as a result.

    5. The results of the meeting. More airplay and newspaper articles.

    6. Rocker got suspended by the commissioner.

    7. Publicity after Rocker returned.

    8. The security at Shea Stadium to protect John Rocker when the Braves played in NY.

    I am sure this is not a complete list. For one I did not add Rocker’s propensity for making controversial statements. See wikipedia article on John Rocker.

  2. Jeff….Please just answer the one burning question: WHY did tou choose that excerpt for the SI piece, if not for the shock effect that you knew would come? It’s hard for some of us to swallow the idea that you’re begging to be judged by the whole book, yet you allowed that particular excerpt.

    1. Ilc—I’ve explained this before. I had ZERO say on the excerpt. Zero. I wanted the Super Bowl XX chapter. But it wasn’t my call.

  3. I’m not so sure there necessarily was a “tide” to “turn.” I think it’s likely that it was simply an angry and vocal minority. I was a big Payton fan back in the day. After hearing the criticism about your article, I finally read it. I kind of shrugged, not sure quite what the big deal is. We are all human, we are all flawed. Walter Payton probably no more than most of us.

  4. “I’m tired of journalists, under cover of painting a complete portrait, deciding the world is a better place for knowing whom public figures are sleeping with. This isn’t news, it’s pandering, especially when the man in question has been dead for 12 years and can’t defend himself”

    -Michael Wilbon

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