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.

3 thoughts on “Sweetness and the apologies that never came”

  1. I find it particularly loathesome that Mike Ditka had the consummate gall to criticize your book. That he didn’t read it is a given. I doubt he’s read much in his life. But to pretend that he is a protector of the character of “Saint Walter” is appalling, given that — notwithstanding his far from credible, mealy-mouthed backtracking in Rick Telander’s book — he pretty clear went out of his way to humiliate Payton by not giving him a TD carry in the only Super Bowl both of them would ever be in. The score was 46-10, for crying out loud. Would it have killed him to give Payton the carry he wanted and deserved, instead of giving the carries to Jim McMahon and Matt Suhey?

  2. Jeff I have read all six of your books (I actually just finished the
    only one I hadn’t read – ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ – last night) and it’s
    clear that each of your projects has been exhaustively researched. And
    that you truly care about the subjects that you are writing about. The
    criticism you received for ‘Sweetness’, from those who didn’t even
    bother to read it, bothers me too. Incredible and pathetic. Keep doing
    what you do Jeff – it is truly appreciated. I can’t wait to read your
    book about Favre!

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