JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

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.