Sweetness and the apologies that never came

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So a couple of days ago I received an e-mail from a Chicago-based priest, who recently read Sweetness. He said he loved the book; that it was fair and honest and anything but a slam job.

Without using the clergy’s name, I posted the note on Facebook, and explained how meaningful the sentiment was to a guy (me) who loves Walter Payton and who considers that the most important project of his life.

What followed were myriad notes of agreement, including this one …

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In case you don’t know the name Emery Moorehead, he was the starting tight end for the Bears during much of Walter Payton’s career. I actually first engaged with him during an ESPN piece about Sweetness, and afterward I told him I’d send him the book.

He, unlike so many Bears who killed my reputation, took the time to read it.

I bring this up because, well, I’ve never gotten over the experience. Never, ever. It scarred me, and will forever scar me. In particular, I was frustrated/hurt/destroyed by Michael Wilbon, a man I’d long respected, and a man who wrote this column without having read Sweetness.

I repeat: Without having read Sweetness.

Sidenote: After the John Rocker piece came out in 1999, it took years for me to recover, professionally. That’s not a complaint—I was covering baseball, and players no longer trusted me. I get it. Sucks, but I get it.

The Sweetness residue has lasted much longer. Wilbon never acknowledged his piece was biased and uninformed. Mike Ditka never explained how he hadn’t read the book. Eddie Payton, Walter’s brother and one of my all-time least favorite people, continues to talk nonsense about me and the book. Of course, he’s never read Sweetness, either. Weird, but true.

As always, I’m babbling.

I wanted Sweetness to be my legacy.

Sadly, it is.