So yesterday was, ahem, weird. Lots of positivity. Lots of anger and hostility and threats. I woke up knowing an excerpt of my Walter Payton biography would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated; knowing it would be a day unlike most others.

I wrapped up my day by attending synagogue for the opening night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

A weird day.

I’m not sure if people—the angry people—understand or care to understand. Two and a half years ago, when I embarked on this project, Chicagoans were—across the board—elated. “Walter Payton! What a great subject for a biography! Awesome!” And they were right. Walter Payton is a great subject for a biography. He’s an icon. He’s beloved. He’s misunderstood. He’s mysterious. Truthfully, I’ve never come across a better subject. Ever. But here’s the thing—”definitive” biography means definitive. To try and tackle a man’s life—his entire life—is daunting. Of course, you write about the touchdowns and the bootlegs; about 275 yards (with a screaming-high fever) and Super Bowl XX and Jim McMahon and Willie Gault. But, and this is the rough part, you are not a public relations executive. You are a journalist, trying to paint the full picture. The FULL picture. You have to, in the name of honesty; in the name of authenticity. Otherwise, why have biographies at all? Why look back at the lives of JFK and Ronald Reagan and MLK and Malcolm X and Jim Morrison and Marilyn Monroe and on and on and on? What’s to learn … to understand … to appreciate if all we do is turn the deceased into unflawed icons?

What’s the point of history, if history can only be approved talking points?

Early on in this project, I learned that, on the biggest day of a football player’s career (his induction into the Hall of Fame), Walter Payton had his wife in row one and his girlfriend in row two. He was nervous … beyond nervous. Freaking out. Scared. Apprehensive. Here he was, about to be enshrined, and all he was consumed by angst.

You are writing a definitive biography of Walter Payton. Do you ignore such a moment.

Later on in this project, I learned of Walter Payton’s severe depression; of his repeated threats of suicide. Like many retired football players, he was lost and hurt and aimless; the game had used him up, and no longer had much use for him.

You are writing a definitive biography of Walter Payton. Do you ignore this, too?

The question I ask is: When is it OK to write about a late person’s shortcomings? When is it OK to look back at his life and analyze the highs and lows; ups and downs? Ever? Never? Maybe—as many detractors clearly feel—we’re better off floating on a cloud of ignorance. Maybe the Never Die Easy depiction of Walter Payton’s life—terrific family man, happy go lucky, not especially deep—is the way to go. Is it real? From a certain perspective, sure. But perhaps that’s all sports fans want; to believe their heroes are only heroes, and nothing else matters.

I don’t agree.

But I understand.

PS: This will come off as a money play, so let me put that to rest: Go to the library. Skim at the book shop. Borrow from a friend. I don’t care how you read Sweetness, but if you’re someone screaming and yelling, “How dare you! How dare you!” I encourage you to take in 460 pages, not seven. Go through the Columbia, Mississippi years; the Jackson State years; the down days in Chicago, when the Bears were a joke and Walter Payton was the only beacon of hope. If, after you’ve done that, you still think the book was a hit job, call me.

We’ll do lunch.

  • Sportswriting Refugee

    One thing that troubles me about the reaction is that I think that it is indicative of a stigma against male mental illness. As if Walter Payton was “weak” for being depressed or addicted, as if these things reveal a character flaw. That is troublesome to me. I thought we were past that as a society. The fact that Walter Payton struggled with mental illness, seemingly, should be a beacon to people struggling with it themselves, not a flashpoint for anger. He has nothing to be ashamed about, and I think people are reacting as if he should be. That bothers me.

    September 29, 2011at1:09 pm Reply
    • Brent

      Well said. Unfortunately, we are not even close to be past the stigma of mental illness. Based on all the research coming out, I wouldn’t decry the notion that Payton’s were due to repeated concussions.

      September 29, 2011at7:07 pm Reply
      • Red

        And yet, the author includes absolutely no information on chronic traumatic encephalopathy as a possible cause for Payton’s behavior and struggles. So much for his attempt to write a definitive biography explaining the motivations behind an enigma. If Pearlman were truly interested in telling the whole picture, he would have addressed the likely damage caused by thousands of collisions during Payton’s career and it’s affect on his life.

        (Note, while I have obviously not yet read the book since it hasn’t been released, Pearlman confirmed that he did not include this content in a conversation with David Haugh from the Chicago Tribune. See Haugh’s column in Friday’s paper.)

        September 30, 2011at8:36 pm Reply
      • Doug

        regarding the author, “will do lunch.” ok, you bring your credit card and I’ll bring the arsnic for your beverage. WHAT A LOW LIFE TO Bring this out. If it’s not for money then donate the proceeds to a rehab facility of your chosing. YOU SCUM SUCKER!

        October 1, 2011at9:46 pm Reply
        • Doug

          Why don’t you write about Obama?

          October 1, 2011at9:49 pm Reply
    • Aqueman

      Excellent point. You articulated exactly what I subconsciously detected as I was perusing the media coverage of this book controversy.

      October 1, 2011at2:51 pm Reply
    • kathleenN

      This book is about one thing…Making Money! Yes, any person suffering from severe pain will be addicted to the pills they take for relief of that pain, if they are on them long enough. And yes, any person suffering from a debilitating disease will suffer depression. But, no, any writer really trying to present an authentic account of a person’s life, will NOT dig around for sensational tidbits to sell books. I trust true Walter Payton fans will keep thier money in their pockets and let the money grubbers find their readers elsewhere.

      October 2, 2011at2:26 pm Reply
  • Jim A.

    I must be missing something. I’m a huge Bears and Walter Payton fan. And I don’t think what was revealed was so bad and I certainly don’t get the venom from some fans. Infidelity from a pro athlete – um, pretty much the norm. Pain killer abuse after your body’s been battered for 15 years – regrettable but understandable. Depression – way more common than people think and in no way a measure of a person’s character. Anyway, agreed that if you’re going to do a biography it has to go beyond the persona. Otherwise, it’s pointless and boring. We already know the public face of and facts about popular icons.

    September 29, 2011at1:23 pm Reply
    • Gary Chase

      Well said. Thank you.

      October 2, 2011at1:04 am Reply
  • 9Trapper

    I don’t think it’s very fair nor do I hold much stock in peoples opinion of excerpts from magazines. Often they don’t even read all of that,
    but feel compelled to comment on it. It’s the same for people that form their political opinion based on news soundbites.

    September 29, 2011at1:42 pm Reply
    • Brodie

      The author needs to get a life and quit stirring up media based assumptions on a man that held his image high and with great importance. Writing an article about a hero that brings him down as a weak and depressed soul is disrespectful and very sad. You deserve to be spit in the face by Mike Ditka and any other Chicago Bear: player or fan that holds number 34 as a heroic and role model status. SHAME ON YOU!

      October 1, 2011at3:39 pm Reply
  • V

    Here is my simple question? If you knew the family was not supportive, why write the book? I know that there is freedoms and all that. But really? Why not think about them. I mean why do your freedoms to express and share about him have to come at the costs to other people? Why not just let it go? Give it more time? Come to some agreements with the family? Sometimes people have secrets and things that they want left alone. Why could you not respect that a little more?

    I am not upset that you wrote the book and told truths. I don’t agree that you had the right to dig that deep into anyone’s life. I just do not agree with that. You don’t have regrets or secrets? You don’t have things about your life that you would like to have private? Why divulge information that the family is obviously not comfortable with? Forget the laws and the constitution and the rights in it. What about just good old fashioned morals and Christian values? Is sharing private information when it is not your information to share really correct? The man is not even here to defend or protect himself or his family from the truths you shared. True or false, you have created victims here. You basically are not better than a gossipy neighbor or a tabloid magazine. Why tell things that are private of the dead?

    You should at least be a strong enough person to admit that you have caused hurt on a family by bringing these matters up. It wasn’t your job to bring up past hurts. It just wasn’t. That should have not been your decision to make. But you made it. And the backlash you are receiving is mainly because you chose to do something that you didn’t have any right (under God) to make! Man up!

    September 29, 2011at1:52 pm Reply
    • Tyler


      Amazing. You put everything i was thinking on the table. Your 100% correct in saying that Mr. Pearlman has in fact created victims here. I would be hard pressed to find a member of Mr. Payton’s family would would be ok with the dealing inside this book. This is a Biography of a persons life but no one should have the right to choose to write about someone so huge in the eyes of the public without atleast having the backing of the family involved. I feel as if Mr. Pearlman will have a legal issue on his hands shortly. I’m a strong believer in Karma and as far as this looks karma will come back to bit him.

      October 1, 2011at4:28 pm Reply
  • Drink Drano

    Karma will catch you Jeff Pearlman, And I hope you think of your fattened wallet when it hits you like a ton of bricks. I am sure you are the perfect saint and never did a wrong but if you need someone to start a biography maybe you could call it “Jeff Pearlman: Digging up graves, As I didn’t have the nads to do it while they were alive, Cha-Ching”

    September 29, 2011at2:26 pm Reply
    • Casey B

      Fattened wallet? These guys have a funny idea of what it’s like to be a writer. A biography that skips the hard parts of a person’s life is a biography that’s not worth reading.

      October 1, 2011at12:47 pm Reply
  • V

    I just noticed you mentioned synagogue on a FB posting. That obviously means that my comment about Christian values does not apply. But I am not going to say anything bad about that because it doesn’t matter. I have Jewish friends. I am obviously just incorrect about talking about Christian values in my point. But I am certain that in the Jewish faith there are certain truths about the ultimate judge of right and wrong. And I just cannot see with what you did falling in line with that. Rights and Freedoms are NOT all that matter here. You hurt people very badly and that is evident in the messages made by the Payton Family. Did you really ever think of them at all? Or was it just a fleeting moment you gave them?

    I am sure that it has been hard on them the first time around with what they endured with the problems Walter had. Why make them have to nurse again old wounds JUST so that you could write a book? That doesn’t seem selfish to you at all? Really?

    I just think that is the lesson of all this. Justifying to yourself that you had the right to hurt people just so that you could do What you wanted. How you wanted. When you wanted just seems terribly wrong.

    How do I explain that to a child? I mean you say it isn’t fair to only allow for the “hero” version of Walter to be told. Stating that that isn’t fair. But how is outing him and his vulnerabilities fair? Really please explain your thought process on getting here to the point that you thought that doing this book was a good choice?

    I am sure that what you wrote was true. I do not judge your journalism skills at uncovering truths. I guess I just am lost as to why you felt you had to do this? Couldn’t the World have survived without this book? Maybe you could not have made it through? But I strongly believe the rest of us could have managed just fine without it.

    September 29, 2011at2:39 pm Reply
  • Dave DC

    I’m guessing family and friends of yours would probably say nice things about you. However, I’m sure it’s rare. I’m going to start off with a phrase one wise man (Joe Madison – The Black Eagle) came up with to address people like you. “In a America we are culturally conditioned to believe that Black people are inferior and White people are superior. The manifestation of this cultural conditioning is Black people are under-valued, underestimated, and marginalized.” This say’s you are subconsciously ignorant of your views toward people that look like Walter Payton. In addition to your sincere ignorance, which is very dangerous, you hate or envy people that achieve feats that you could not do as a novice. I say this because what I’ve read about you is the opposite of an athlete. To be clear, I’m saying the same thing to you as Floyd Mayweather said to Larry Merchant in the post interview of the Ortiz fight. You’re more of a fashion guy…right? I mean this is where you got your start? I’m trying to figure out why a fashion guy has so much hate for athletes…especially the Black ones. Is it jealousy? Is it Envy? Or is it much deeper? Like a closeted attraction? Ahh I’ll leave that to your shrink. In some sort of twisted way I’m sure what you’re writing about other people is a projection of how you feel about yourself. Please take a look at your whole collection of writing and figure out what most people already know about you.
    Here’s a suggestion, since you like writing about people’s ills. Why don’t you report on the facts of the Jewish involvement in the undoing of Black people during the slave trade. They are on record as owners of slave ships and for selling and dehumanizing of Black people. Since this is your religious New Year, as you have indicated above; a time of atonement and repenting, right? Please be righteous and put pen to paper and tell the truth of what you have decided to be a part of…and Stop hating on Black people

    September 29, 2011at2:45 pm Reply
    • J to the A

      This is very ignorant. Maybe you should do yourself a favor and read some of Pearlman’s other books and then you can realize the furthest thing from Jeff’s writing deals with racism. Maybe pick up the book about Roger Clemens maybe. Do yourself a favor and move down the bench.

      September 30, 2011at3:12 pm Reply
    • Mario

      How is this post related to what Jeff is saying? Jeeeeeez…

      September 30, 2011at5:30 pm Reply
    • Paddy

      Dave at DC I would say your comments are an attack on him. That would put you in the same class. Please, if you are a christian you should know that God is not a God is retribution but of peace and love. Your comments fail to rationalize your thoughts. While I dont know if I agree with what was written its not mine nor your responsibility to curse Mr. Pearlman. If vengeance is needed then it belongs to the Lord. In this case I love you as a brother in Christ and ask that you not subject or fall into the flesh and attack people who talk. Jesus spoke to sinners yet never attacked them.

      September 30, 2011at5:58 pm Reply
    • Patrick Lauver

      I wondering how a retarded person wrote this much from a keyboard? This is the dumbest response I have read so far…but I will keep going.

      October 1, 2011at5:08 pm Reply
    • BKQ

      Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

      October 2, 2011at4:26 am Reply
  • SBorg

    I can see where you are coming from on the honesty in journalism point. It is a shame the media (through the headlines they use about your book) is making you look like a scum bag out to destroy a dead mans reputation and cash in on his pain.

    One way to mitigate the perception is for you to donate all or part of your profit from the book to the Walter Peyton Foundation. If they accept the donation it will indicate you’re written a fair book taking into account the entirety of a man’s life. If they reject the donation it would indicate otherwise.

    September 29, 2011at2:54 pm Reply
  • Jim

    The negative comments about this excerpt are ridiculous. A biography is supposed to the story of a person’s life, not a fairy tale.

    So many people are so childish when it comes to sports…as if they’re still seven years old and think all their “heroes” are without flaws.

    September 29, 2011at3:26 pm Reply
    • ray

      jim did you know walter, i did and know iam not childish, i want to know why write a book now why not 1990 so we could see how walter felt about it?

      September 29, 2011at9:36 pm Reply
      • Jim

        Well, first, Pearlman was probably in high school in 1990.

        Second, Pearlman has written warts-and-all bios about Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds…both of whom are quite alive. So the notion that he’s some kind of coward for writing about a dead guy is a bit ridiculous.

        Third, what Payton would have felt about the bio is irrelevant to me.

        September 30, 2011at3:36 am Reply
        • egbert

          exposing a man’s private thoughts are irrelevant to you? great morals, jim. wall street is calling. they have an opening for your kind. i see it all, ten years from jim as goldman sachs ceo. sounds about right.

          September 30, 2011at5:46 am Reply
  • Mike

    Well put Jeff. None of us are perfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Walter Payton was no exception. It is well known that football players have issues after they are away from the game. Suicide, depression, early onset dementia. Some of which relates to hits they absorbed while playing.

    September 29, 2011at3:33 pm Reply
  • Frank D

    Sportwriting Refugee: you are right on, and the (unconscious) internalizing of that attitude is why my depression went undiagnosed for 25 years. And the difference in my life from pre-treatment to post-treatment is night and day. The extramarital affairs? Possibly “scandalous”. The abuse of painkillers? Possibly “scandalous”. Depression. NOT scandalous at all.

    Oh, and abuse of drugs can also be a symptom of depression, much less having your body beat up for 15 years, so I’d never call that scandalous either.

    As for some of the crap you’re getting, Jeff? Sorry. You asked for it. No, not by writing the book–by allowing a 7-page excerpt to be the lead piece of a 460-page book. Yeah, yeah, marketing. However, that’s what excerpts *do*. You didn’t think SI was going to excerpt all the benign stuff, did you????

    September 29, 2011at3:43 pm Reply
  • Keegan Rush

    This doesn’t diminish his greatness at all. It just humanizes our hero. Athletes are humans as well and make mistakes. This illustrates that and that is why I’ll read it from first page to last page.

    Also you must realize how many meathead Bear fans there are. As a huge Bears fan (I’m tattooed even), many are quick to jump to illogical conclusions.

    September 29, 2011at3:53 pm Reply

    Uhm, the points in total are understood BUT Sports Illustrated obviously did not, either, choose to republish the entirety of the 460 pages. So, the most salacious accounts are republished, instead. Does THAT paint a full, fair picture of the entirety of the book? No. Hence your pity party here is, at best, odd. You accept the juicy morsels being spewed out there to juice the sale of your book, then cry that fans are not judging the entirety of your work. It seems to me that when bits and pieces are chosen that benefit your book’s sales, you are totally on board. Hmmm…

    September 29, 2011at4:22 pm Reply
    • Red

      Good point

      September 30, 2011at11:54 pm Reply
  • pat

    If you are inciting such passion on both ends of the spectrum, you must be doing something right. Well done.

    September 29, 2011at4:32 pm Reply
  • George

    Jeff, I wish you all the best with this book. People are going to say what they are going to say. In the end, you have this publication that so many will read and enjoy. No one can ever take that away. All your hard work will have paid off and this book will be a success. Can’t wait to read all 460 pages. All the best.

    September 29, 2011at4:33 pm Reply
    • ray

      well george my mother was right there are idiots in this world,, i wish you all the luck with the book, again meathead

      September 29, 2011at9:29 pm Reply
  • KT

    Jeff, I have to admit…I was (and am) a huge Walter Payton fan and was flabbergasted by the excerpts. I guess I shouldn’t have been. I should be past the point of thinking our heroes are somehow more than human. In this case, I was not.

    I hold out hope that your definitive biography of Tim Tebow in 2041 doesn’t contain similar revelations, or I may be done, completely.

    September 29, 2011at4:45 pm Reply
    • Brent


      September 29, 2011at7:01 pm Reply
  • Lana

    It’s so ridiculous to think that celebrities are not human beings. Why people hold them up to standard of being perfect is something I will never understand. It’s purely a form of entertainment to look for the bad stuff about someone. It gives something for people to gossip about. So what if Walter was fighting pain or demons or depression? That was HIS personal struggle in life and should only be for he and his God and his family only!!! Our society is sick to want to demonize someone just because they are human. If he didn’t commit murder or rape or some other horrendous crime, then what he does is none of our concern. And to talk about it after his death is incredibly disrespectful. He gave Bears fans many many years of joy and all you can do is taint the family he left behind! Shame, shame!!!!

    September 29, 2011at4:46 pm Reply
  • smooothdave

    Well put Jeff. We can not look through rose-colored glasses to get the truth, the whole story. What you wrote does not change what was accomplished onthe field. “Breaking News” Walter was human. Now back to regular programming.

    September 29, 2011at4:55 pm Reply
    • MiRoGi

      I knew Mr Payton and never saw him taking pills, let alone Tylenol. He was a person that wanted to be in control. Thus never even saw him drink. Not saying he never did drink, what I AM saying is that he was NOT A drug abuser. Did he have his flaws… sure… like everyone that was put on this Earth. But he was a good man, worked his butt off, loved his family and his wife. He would help out anyone in need. I forgot the likes of Pearlman, B. Holmes (his attorney), G. Quirk (his secretary) are without their faults. Ms. Quirk has forgot to mention how she stole from Mr. Payton and his family and capitalized on his death, and continues to this day as evident with this book. This book proves the extent how low people will go to make a $. They should be ashamed of themselves. Sad. RIP Mr Payton

      September 29, 2011at6:47 pm Reply
  • Nick

    @Jeff Pearlman…So, who is the next athlete you are going to expose as a adulterous depressed drug addict? The problem I have with this book is that Walter Payton is dead and cannot defend himself against your claims. Further, if your interviews painted a rosey picture of Walter Payton my guess is that the book would not have been written.

    September 29, 2011at5:01 pm Reply
  • Will Applebee

    Try and cover it up all you want. To attack a dead person’s character in even the slightest bit is akin to picking a fight with a mentally handicapped person, since you know they can’t fight back. It’s sick, it’s embarrassing, frankly it’s pathetic. Luckily for you defaming a public figure is quite difficult to prove in court.

    Here’s some truth for you: you want to write a “definitive biography”? Try doing it when the guy is alive when he can actually defend himself from your accusations and address whether they’re true or not. Quoting “sources” does not justify it in the slightest. The guy has been dead for a DECADE before you even start to write it? Wow. Just wow. Why not wait till every single person who could defend him has died off?

    As an attorney, let me say that you’re just lucky you’re not in a criminal trial, because this garbage would be tossed out of court for violating the confrontation clause of the sixth amendment. To sum that up in one sentence: if an accused isn’t there to confront his accusers, whatever is said is thrown out (don’t believe me? look it up).

    But I get why you’d do such a thing. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Anything to get noticed. Especially considering you write for a magazine that is only still relevant because of its’ swimsuit issue. Plus, “no such thing as bad publicity”, right? It’s sad that sports has come to the point of where it’s more TMZ reporting than sports reporting.

    If you’re truly not a slimeball reporter like you and your magazine have made yourself come off, then come out and explain why you waited ten plus years till after the guy died to put out this trash. Then maybe some people would consider reading it, and the rest that’s supposedly “better”. Until then, not a chance.

    Please feel free to respond to me personally as well:
    e-mail:, i’m also on facebook and twitter.

    September 29, 2011at5:07 pm Reply
    • egbert


      September 29, 2011at6:51 pm Reply
    • Dr. K

      People can’t write biographies after the subject matter is dead? Wow, just wow. Where’d you get your law degree, in a box of Captain Crunch?

      September 29, 2011at7:32 pm Reply
      • Frank D

        Exactly what I was going to ask.

        Plus, Jeff has written a scathing bio about Roger Clemens (still alive), and a not-entirely-nice bio about the ’86 Mets (mostly still alive). I have not read Boys Will Be Boys, but I’m guessing it’s not all sweetness and light, and the mid-90s Cowboys are mostly still alive. Backing away from writing critical bios of alive people is NOT Jeff’s M.O.

        September 29, 2011at8:42 pm Reply
        • Will Applebee

          Where did I say he couldn’t write it? Oh wait, that’s right, I didn’t. But nice try putting words into my mouth…since I know you can’t actually respond to any points I made.

          I said defaming someone’s personal character when they’re not around to defend themselves is sick and pathetic and it is. Period. I don’t care what he’s done before.

          September 29, 2011at9:07 pm Reply
          • TMC

            I guess the real issue, then, is this: what makes it defamation? I know you’re an attorney, so you’ll surely offer an answer. But say, hypothetically, after I’m dead, the police find a dozen bodies buried in my basement. Is it defamation for someone to write about that? Or is it reporting?

            To me, defamation would entail some sore of fact-bending or flat out lying, and, as far as anyone here knows, there is no evidence that Pearlman has invented any of this.

            September 29, 2011at9:27 pm
          • Dr. K

            Fine, let’s break it down:
            “To attack a dead person’s character in even the slightest bit is akin to picking a fight with a mentally handicapped person, since you know they can’t fight back.”

            Uh, this is a biography. It’s not an attack, it’s an account, with documented sources. You may not like it, but these things happened. And how would one ‘fight back’? Denial? Again, these are documented sources.

            “As an attorney, let me say that you’re just lucky you’re not in a criminal trial, because this garbage would be tossed out of court for violating the confrontation clause of the sixth amendment.”

            OK Perry Mason, why don’t you sue Pearlman on behalf of the Payton family? Love to see how far you’d get before you were laughed out of the courtroom.

            “Especially considering you write for a magazine that is only still relevant because of its’ swimsuit issue.”

            Must still be relevant if you’re belly-aching about it.

            “Where did I say he couldn’t write it? Oh wait, that’s right, I didn’t.”

            No, but you insinuated that by writing it, he was violating the law. Not much difference.

            “I said defaming someone’s personal character when they’re not around to defend themselves is sick and pathetic and it is.”

            Which would eliminate any biography of a dead person that covered both the good and bad aspects of that person’s life. Which would pretty much be all biographies, except for the ones in the children’s section. I’m sure you’ll find a Payton biography there that suits your needs.

            September 29, 2011at11:05 pm
        • egbert

          you fail to address the crucial point: why did jeffy-boy write this unauthorized biography? to entertain? to make some sort of point about societies’ obsession with athletes? he is trying to make like he was just oh so intrigued by this man who no one really knew. he is b’sing all of you.

          he did it for money. cold hard cash. which if he would admit to that, would make me back off. if that is his chosen way to make a buck, hey there are many worse people than him. but jeffy-boy won’t admit it. he is trying to be a martyr right now.

          i have read not only this nonsense blog of his, but many other interviews he has given the past two days. jeffy-boy wants everyone to think he had no agenda when he started to research this book, it all just came to him and he couldn’t hold back the truth. if you believe that, you are hopelessly naive. he got some tips before he ever thought about writing about payton(everyone in chicago knows payton chased women. i have met two who said he pursued them while he was married).

          jeffy-boy thought, “who can i best dredge up dirt about and make some money?” he was given salacious tips which he promised to pay for and then he proceded. look at jeffy-boys’ past books. he goes for dirt. that is his m.o. write about gossipy things that have no relevance and use that gossip to write a book.

          sure, he delves into his subjects’ childhood and positive traits. it gives him good cover to do so. jeffy-boy pearlman is nothing more than a sleaze-ball who wants to make money. this does not make him unique, it just makes him what he is; a creep.

          September 30, 2011at2:08 am Reply
    • Ted

      Mr. Applebee,

      So biographies can only be written when the subject is still alive? That means all scholarship regarding the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, JFK, etc. should end immediately. You’re basically advocating for the complete stoppage of all historical scholarship in every history department throughout the world. Are you serious?

      In addition, you’re also advocating for journalists or historians to ignore every negative detail about a deceased person because they cannot defend themselves against these charges. This is preposterous. A journalist is supposed to report an objective viewpoint on the subject he is reporting on. Mr. Pearlman has a very good track record in this regard, and I am sure the book is very well cited. No reputable publisher would produce a biography otherwise.

      If you think items in this book are “garbage” maybe you should use your writing and interviewing skills from law school to interview Mr. Pearlman’s sources and write a rebuttal biography. I’m sure your objective viewpoint will produce a text that will be 100% positive because we all know that professional athletes are practically saints.


      September 29, 2011at8:18 pm Reply
      • egbert

        the scholarship of lincoln, washington, franklin, jefferson, king, and jfk is equivalent to walter payton? are you insane or just a moron?

        payton played football. he was a private man. we can learn from scholarship of those men, we learn nothing but dirt from jeffy-boy’s book on payton.

        applebee has written the most rational posts on this blog. he isn’t denying that what jeffy-boy has written is accurate, he is just saying with good sense, that there is no reason other than to line jeffy-boy’s bank account to write about it.

        September 30, 2011at4:23 am Reply
    • TMC

      These complaints are, frankly, just plain weird.

      Why didn’t he write the bio when Payton was alive? Maybe the idea hadn’t occurred to him. Maybe he was busy writing other books and articles. Maybe he hadn’t gotten an editor to accept the pitch. Maybe he didn’t plan on Payton dying so young. The critique makes it sound like Pearlman was holding onto this info for decades and just waiting for Payton to die so he could unleash it on the people.

      Plus, you know, the subjects of most biographies like this are dead. it’s how this stuff works.

      And, also, I can guarantee the publisher had numerous lawyers and fact-checkers working on this book; they stand to lose WAY too much if it’s just a National Enquirer style muckraking.

      So, it sucks, Walter Payton wasn’t a paragon of virtue and he had some hard times. The fact that a former pro athlete had issues with painkillers and infidelity isn’t even that shocking, honestly.

      September 29, 2011at9:26 pm Reply
      • Marty

        Will Applebee,

        There’s countless biographies out there of dead people that were written after the fact (politicians; athletes). You realize that people still write biographies about William Shakespeare when he’s been dead for hundreds of years. I guess somebody should sue them because he can’t defend himself.

        And why did he wait 10 years? You think he purposely waited until Payton was dead? What about the Bonds + Clemens biographies that were written while they were alive. Nobody sued Pearlman then, did they? Was he being a coward/slimeball then? Those were, admittedly, on guys Pearlman didn’t exactly like in the first place going in probably. With Payton? You can’t help but read that Pearlman clearly likes the guy. I don’t think that’s penetrating people like you who love to react and be outraged.

        September 29, 2011at10:00 pm Reply
        • AR

          The reason this was written after Payton was long gone is because this author couldn’t have done it any other way. The author was a punk kid when Payton made his name.
          So the author basically asks what is the point of history if we just look at the good aspects of a person? This makes an automatic assumption that there must be a dark side to every personality. That is a dangerous thing in the search for the truth.
          I have no problem with Payton if he had flaws. But who is to say Jeff Pearlman has the credible facts to document what they were?

          October 1, 2011at11:10 am Reply
    • Matt Percy

      Dude, who cares if you are an attorney…why feel the need to put that in your comment? because in 200 words you feel you can give us a law lesson?

      September 30, 2011at2:09 am Reply
      • egbert

        no because in 200 words you are too dumb to realize a scandalmonger in jeffy-boy.

        September 30, 2011at4:25 am Reply
        • Matt Percy


          I know, I am so dumb…see my posts to you below, my spelling…not great!! Nut you are smart…a..wait for it..a LAWYER (I know this cause you typed it out for us)


          September 30, 2011at4:33 am Reply
  • Kari

    I think part of the uproar (especially from people in the Chicagoland area) is that the entire Payton family is beloved here in Chicago. Walter’s widow Connie continues to be very involved in the community, and his kids Jarrett and Brittney have careers in the local media, keeping them fairly high profile in the area. When the story first came across my RSS feed, my thoughts were on them. While Walter was certainly a local hero during his life, his legend and legacy have grown exponentially in the years since his untimely death. It’s almost as if he’s been beatified. As a result, relaying unflattering information about Walter is certain to evoke strong reactions, rational or not.

    Now, having said that, it’s ridiculous that people think their heroes are saints. They are human, subject to human frailties and mistakes. It seems that the majority of folks commenting here get that–and get that a true biography tells the whole story of the subject’s life. We all have our faults, but those faults don’t necessarily erase our good characteristics and actions.

    I’m hoping that these revelations will shine the spotlight on mental health issues, and play a role in removing the stigma those issues currently harbor (much like Walter’s physical illness sparked discussion about the subject of organ donation).

    Good luck with the book, Jeff. I will be one of those folks buying a copy.

    September 29, 2011at5:25 pm Reply
  • william

    why wait for him to be dead??? why not put this book out when walter payton was you sweetness!!!

    September 29, 2011at5:34 pm Reply
  • tony

    Don’t make it sound like you are writing an autobiography so that people can appreciate his life story. This is about money plain and simple. your hogwash above stating “borrow the book or get it from the library” is crap. You sensationalized the negative to generate book sales. Congratulations, you dragged a man’s name through the mud and whored yourself out. Enjoy the cash..

    September 29, 2011at5:38 pm Reply
    • TMC

      Maybe it’s about money. But maybe it’s not. It seems hard to make a definitive judgment without reading the book, doesn’t it?

      September 29, 2011at9:29 pm Reply
    • Ted

      An autobiography is a biography written by the actual subject of the book i.e. Payton writing his own life story. Pearlman wrote a biography about Walter Payton, not himself. If you’re not intelligent enough to know the difference, don’t comment on the book. You only make your points seem even more idiotic.

      September 29, 2011at9:34 pm Reply
  • IgnoranceArbitrage

    I had read the debate about this and this post, and I was going to write something similar to what Sportswriting Refugee wrote, but his comment is so spot on that I would merely like to thank him for posting such trenchant observation.

    September 29, 2011at5:46 pm Reply
  • Tony Franco

    Just read your blogpost and you are not entirely incorrect, I get it. But you know as well as I do that most people who read all the headlines from yesterday and the ones yet to come regarding the book will NOT read the entire book, as you are imploring all of your detractors to do. Most of these people will now mainly focus on Walter the drug addict, Walter the adulterer, Walter the suidcidal ex-football player, etc. They will not remember, or likely even read, all the positive stuff that you say is in the book. This is the current state of our culture, which is no one person’s fault, including you. Regardless, your book, and now Walter to a large degree, will only be remembered for the more unseemly portions, no matter how small the percentage these are of the overall book. Do most people remember Elvis the man for his music or for being one of the originators of rock n roll? Please! You know this and I suspect you knew this all along. I don’t have to tell you that perception is reality! You say it’s not a money grab huh? Then why does your employer (SI) only focus on the “dirt”? To sell magazines and your book my man, no denying it. You can hide behind journalistic integrity all you like – and you certainly aren’t the first to do so – but you didn’t write this book simply for truth, unless you are planning to give your profits to some worthy charitable organization, like the Walter and Connie Payton foundation for instance? Enjoy the payoff my man, and I hope you feel good about yourself. No doubt you have already justified everything in your own mind like others before you – otherwise the book would never see the light of day in the first place. No need to respond unless you are for some reason highly compelled to do so…I already know your answer.

    September 29, 2011at5:59 pm Reply
    • Zo

      Excellent comment Tony…

      September 29, 2011at10:52 pm Reply
  • mark

    You have commented on many different people in your blog. Some good. Some bad.
    Other then getting a nice paycheck, I don’t know why you would go ahead and write a book about the shortcomings of deceased man. There is no doubt that you have hurt people who are close to Mr. Payton. Is it worth it for a nice paycheck?

    September 29, 2011at5:59 pm Reply
  • robert blevins

    I just hope that this book is pushed back to the trash and that if you do sell a single copy that the money goes to the needy and not to you.
    You suck!!

    September 29, 2011at6:07 pm Reply
  • Andria

    I am both from Columbia, Mississippi and graduated from Jackson State University. My family also lived next door to the Payton’s on Hendricks Street before I was born (or when I was very young). I am also a Walter Payton fan. The truth is the truth. How are we to know if these things actually happened or if your sources are bad? If they are true they are a part of him and should be included in the book. When, as a nation, will we learn to accept that our public figures are not perfect and that the story will eventually be told? Write on.

    September 29, 2011at6:24 pm Reply
  • egbert

    you write this post as if you were “required” to write a bio of Walter Payton. you wouldn’t have gone ahead with this project unless you were informed of some salacious details beforehand. and be a man and admit your sole reason for writing the book, to make money.

    couching your argument in (paraphrasing), ‘history can’t just be positive bullet points’ and ‘i’m not a pr agent’ is nonsense. he was a FOOTBALL PLAYER! not a government official, not a religious leader, not someone whose decisions and life choices impacts our own lives in other than a superficial way. he brought us a few hours of joy 16 times per year. that’s it. a bio of walter payton is totally unecessary and you knew before writing one word you had good dirt to bring the book the publicity it needed to make you enough money to make writing the book worthwhile.

    i have a feeling that you are a jay mariotti-type of guy. you love to throw stones, but can’t take even a speck of sand coming back at you without crying. and like mariotti, i bet we hear some things about your personal life which prove you to be a hypopcrite. we can only pray (love how you bring up your religion at the top of your post- yes, we all believe you are so good and holy, now) that someone digs into your past and you are betrayed by people who you shared intimate and embarrassing facts and thoughts about your life with. karma’s a bitch, jeffy. can’t wait for your fall.

    September 29, 2011at6:25 pm Reply
    • Ted

      A bio of Walter Payton is totally unnecessary? Really? So were any biography ever written about Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Johnny Unitas, George Mikan, Jackie Robinson, etc? Are you serious? Walter Payton was an NFL legend. I don’t understand how someone of this stature cannot be a decent subject for a biography. That makes no sense.

      Secondly, Mr. Pearlman is entitled to earn a living through his chosen profession – journalism. You have the choice to not buy the book, ignore the articles on the internet, and still remember Mr. Payton for all of his on the field glory. What you fail to realize is he was human. For good or for bad, he was human just like the rest of us. The only difference between you and him is fame and athletic ability. No one wants to read about your life. Plenty of people want to learn more and further understand who Walter Payton was – both the good and the bad.

      Mr. Pearlman probably put thousands of hours into this project and as a journalist had the obligation to provide the whole story. Did SI decide to use the salacious details as advertising? Yes, they did. That is unfortunate. However, the book itself and Mr. Pearlman’s writing should not be discounted. My understanding is he writes about all aspects of Mr. Payton’s life in an objective way. That’s a testament to his profession and he should be commended for it.


      September 29, 2011at8:36 pm Reply
      • egbert

        a bio is unnecessary when you are doing it for no other reason than to make money. he lets the world know that one of payton’s whores told him that connie payton was not a good mother, but she turned over parenting duties to nannies. jeffy-boy should be “commended” as you say for reporting that?

        i don’t know if that’s true or not, but why is that worthy of writing about? why are marital affairs worthy of writing about? laughing gas in the garage? why is that worthy of writing about? his wife and mistress had a confrontation? why is that worthy of writng about?

        i know payton was human, dumb-f**k. i am also a human and i dont want the world to know my secrets. i am certain you dont want the world to know yours either.

        if jeffy-boy had stuck to public behavior and public issues, then all is fair. but he went to whores for gossip and if you think that is “journalism” then you are as sleazy as jeffy-boy.

        September 30, 2011at2:39 am Reply
        • Dr. K.

          A guy wrote a book to make money? Perish the thought!

          Also, egbert, you’ve accused Mr. Pearlman of paying people for salicious information, which is a pretty serious charge. You better have some credible evidence to prove it.

          September 30, 2011at4:18 am Reply
          • egbert

            has jeffy-boy denied it? what world do you live in? why else do you think payton’s manager, mistresses, and assistant are rolling over on him? because they are interested in historical accuracy like jeffy-boy? i guess next you want me to prove that cheney really was concerned about wmd’s in iraq.

            and no fault in making money through a bio, but denying why you wrote that bio is why jeffy-boy is a creep, not because he did it.

            September 30, 2011at5:39 am
          • Dr. K

            The burden of proof is on you, buddy. If you don’t have it, then you’re making it up.

            October 2, 2011at5:25 pm
  • Jason

    Why don’t you do something worthwhile? Why attack a man that was a hero? AND is dead! I hope everything you did in life that was questionable and bad comes out. Who are you to judge and smear the good name of a man that touched so many lifes? You could only dream to be a sliver of a man he was or even do something to help even one person. Shame on you. The only part of walter Payton’s life I wish you had was his illness so you could have a lingering, painful death!

    September 29, 2011at6:32 pm Reply
  • Henry

    I don’t doubt that every person in this world has flaws and issues that they deal with everyday. My issue with this book is that somewhere along the way it became a necessity for “biographies” to lower the public’s perception of the subject. What’s wrong with “unflawed icons”? There’s a reason why we idolize people. Sure, in a perfect world we should idolize someone like our parents; but there’s a reason why that’s more the exception than the rule. We see the flaws in the people we’re close to. Athletes may be false idols, but there’s no reason to assume you should have the right to destroy that.
    You say this was not a money grab and that might be slightly true. But your reasons for writing this were selfish one way or another. To be honest, I had no idea who you were before you wrote this so there is an increase in your popularity. Bravo.
    I will read your book to determine if there is any true value. But only if I find it in a library, or if I’m able to skim over it in the bookstore, or if I can find a friend to borrow it from.

    September 29, 2011at6:34 pm Reply
  • michael allen

    Jeff, Being a lifelong Bears fan and as big a “Sweetness” fan, I was really pissed when i read the article depicting your book. I came on here to rip you for being a low life money grubbing scumbag. But guess what?….your’e RIGHT. We all have our issues . As long as the facts are presented honestly, it means much more than some glossy puff job. Now i wonder if his liver problems might be a result of the many painkillers he took…the depression, womanizing, all a part of the professional athlete/football player persona….looking forward to learning more about the REAL person….

    September 29, 2011at6:46 pm Reply
  • egbert


    and as far as you “putting to rest” the fact that this book is not a “money play” on your part, i have a suggestion. instead of screwing over your publisher by encouraging people not to buy the book, but to borrow a copy or check one out from the library; prove through bank records that you are giving each and every dime you receive from this book, to a charity for cancer research. put your paycheck where your big mouth is.

    what do you say about that idea, jeffy(please stop everyone picking on me! i’m really a good guy. i’ll buy you lunch if you think otherwise. i go to temple!)-boy?

    September 29, 2011at6:49 pm Reply
    • TMC

      Can we be honest here and say this idea is ludicrous? He spent 2.5 years working on a book. Why should he give his profits away? To make YOU feel better?

      September 29, 2011at9:31 pm Reply
      • egbert


        he wrote above that this is not about a money grab. jeffy-boy wrote that. i am obviously being sarcastic in suggesting he donate his book proceeds to charity. i understand he writes books as his profession.

        i am telling jeffy-boy that he is being intellecually dishonest in portraying his reasons for writing this book as not for profit, but for historical purposes. if he would be honest and admit why he wrote the book, i would accept that. but, in my opinion he is not being honest to his readers and probably to himself as well.

        September 29, 2011at9:38 pm Reply
        • TMC

          I think you misread that line. When he says “this will come off as a money play,” I took it as him referring only to the stuff that followed (ie- the part where he tells his detractors to read the book). It’s not entirely clear, I agree, but I read it as meaning essentially this:

          “Hey guys, I know you think this book is junk and trashing Payton. But maybe you should read it first. Go out and pick up a copy. I’m not saying this to make more money, but to ask you to give the book a fair shot, so go get it from the library or anywhere else you can. “

          September 30, 2011at9:39 pm Reply
      • Matt Percy

        Good Call…my thoughts exactly..a ridiculous argument from eggbert!!

        September 30, 2011at2:10 am Reply
        • egbert

          not an argument, but sarcasm. i thought aussies were smarter than that, matt. either come out as the new yorker you really are or go back to watching some aussie rules and leave the discussion to the adults.

          September 30, 2011at5:31 am Reply
  • Brent

    Upon first glance, a person might think of negative repurcussions for his kids. However, I am confident the kids had some semblance of awareness of their father’s “imperfections”. As well, understanding one’s parents better, can help them to understand themselves better. What if one his kids was currently battling depression and did not realize it. Perhaps seeing the signs of his/her father might bring some awareness, leading to help. In today’s world knowledge is empowerment. People against such a book coming out need to separate the idea that their imperfections make them a bad person. All heroes have imperfections and those that are afraid to accept or expose these may be living lives of denial themselves. Perhaps it was for the same reason that Walter Payton was not able to seek help as he could not accept the idea that as a public hero he couldn’t possible have any imperfections. From the author’s comments it seems he is genuine in not trying to make a dollar by smearing Payton.

    September 29, 2011at7:02 pm Reply
  • sanford sklansky

    For all of you carping about the Payton book, you should read this.

    I doubt if anyone would have talked to Jeff Payton was still alive. Out of 460 pages I am guessing that the excerpt in SI was but a small portion of the book.

    September 29, 2011at7:13 pm Reply
    • ray

      really guy you and pearlman are meatheads, know what that means “dead from the neck up is this book really that important

      September 29, 2011at9:22 pm Reply
  • Drew

    Hey egbert, you are an awesome internet tough guy. You should be really proud that you were able to have such intelligent discourse today. In fact, when you go home tonight to your empty house I want you to write on one of your empty pizza boxes “egbert, you’re too good to capitalize your internet tough guy name” and hang it above your single bed. That way when you wake up you’ll immediately remember, I don’t need to capitalize my name. I’m too damn tough.

    Good work bro.

    September 29, 2011at7:18 pm Reply
  • Mordecai Lewski

    Enjoy it while you can. If you have caused his family to suffer you will see that what you have done is going to bring you great sorrow. I am not talking about KARMA and I am not threatining you. I am talking from experience. This will come back to haunt you. You still have a chance to make amends. Trust me you are going to regret this. I also received a nice check for exposing someone. I now wake up evryday in agony.

    September 29, 2011at7:21 pm Reply
  • Drew

    egbert, you respond to Jeff as if you were required to read his excerpt.

    So are you opposed to all biography’s of deceased athletes? Or only your favorite athletes? I’m assuming you’ve contacted Al Stump for the terrible things he wrote about Ty Cobb?

    September 29, 2011at7:21 pm Reply
    • ray

      egbert, we have an other meathead, dead from neck up,,drew really comparing ty cobb with walter payton, again, meathead like the author jp

      September 29, 2011at9:40 pm Reply
  • egbert


    your arguments are not logical. you’re comparing walter payton to ty cobb? ty cobb was a viscious, violent, racist who beat up women, was a member of the kkk, and intentionally attempted to injure opponents. and he exhibited his horrible behavior in public. payton has been betrayed by people whom he disclosed his darkest fears to (and you can bet your friend jeffy-boy paid them off to dish the dirt). his PRIVATE thougts and fears. you can’t understand the difference, drew?

    ty cobb hired al stump to write a biography. jeffy-boy wrote an UNAUTHORIZED biography without the cooperation of his family. you can’t understand the difference, drew?

    so in total your points were that i use lower case letters when typing proper names and that says what about me exactly? and what else, i am an internet tough guy? because i think jeffy-boy is full of it with his post? geez, you’re not the deepest thinker are you, drew?

    jeffy-boy, you need some smarter friends than drew to help you out here.

    September 29, 2011at7:51 pm Reply
    • pat

      Hey Egbert, why don’t you cite where you found evidence of all those claims made against Cobb. Maybe in Stump’s later work?Stump, the liar and fabricator of false storiesabout Cobb and a confirmed forger of Cobb’s own diary that was purchased by the Baseball Hall of Fame and since removed from display after the FBI examined it.
      Unauthorized biographies tend to be more definitive.
      Your comparison of the Cobb and Payton situations is laughable.
      Perhaps you should try something else to hang your hat on when critisizing Pearlman.

      September 29, 2011at8:53 pm Reply
      • egbert

        i didn’t compare payton to cobb, drew did. i was responding to the idiocy of comparing their situations, not doing the comparison myself.

        of course unauthorized bios give more dirt than authorized, duh! please tell me next that the congress votes your way if you give them money.

        i am not hanging my hat on criticizing jeffy-boy by using cobb as an example. read all of my posts and you’ll get an idea of why i think jeffy-boy is sleazy.

        jeffy-boy is a creep because he is being dishonest about his intentions. he did this book because he heard about dirt, paid off his sources for dirt, and then tried to play it all off as needing to be historically accurate. i dont know who hank aaron f***ed. i don’t know what drugs jim brown took. i don’t know if jerry west’s kids were neglected by their mother and raised by nannies. i don’t need to know and neither do you. this isn’t about being historically accurate. it’s about jeffy-boy’s bank account. if you don’t understand that, you are not very bright.

        September 30, 2011at3:16 am Reply
    • Marty

      you realize that there’s a Sports Section in book stores. People follow sports as heavily as some follow religion & politics. Do biographies have to just be about politicians? You came on here because sports mean a lot to you, right? Yeah, Pearlman can do it both for the money and the love. How many people on here, including you, could probably talk about sports all day. I’m writing this all without pay and if I was getting paid? Even better.

      There is nothing wrong with biographies to you. A biography on Ty Cobb? Sure. He was a dick. We know that and you follow sports closely enough to know that. On Walter Payton? No, you want to keep your rose-colored glasses on of an athlete you worship and stay a virgin forever.

      I’m sure you wrote this post to defend Walter Payton and because you’re outraged (it’s the natural state people want to be in anyway: outraged/angry about something, even taking things out of context & jumping to conclusions). That’s what draws page hits Guess what? I’m NOT reading Payton’s book because I hate the guy or to hear the ‘salacious’ details about his affairs or drug use. Those are selling points by his publishers, but not to Pearlman I would imagine. I’m a a Boston sports fan & Payton’s in my top 10 athletes of all time even though I wasn’t born until 1986. I want to get to know him as a person and even learn more about football while I’m at it and be entertained too. I’m sure that you would learn a few things too if you calmed down and stopped being outraged. But you’re obviously not going to do that and give it a chance, am I right?

      You obviously believe that this is a hit piece through and through. I HATE Sarah Palin and there’s a new book out there by Joe McGinnis that obviously is and seems unfair. That book wasn’t written by someone with the best intentions. Ditto with Michelle Malkin’s book CULTURE OF CORRUPTION that slammed Obama. The troubling thing that brings up your inner bullshit detector is that a book like that came out within the first couple of months of Obama’s first 6 months of office, which meant it was pre-written/pre-published well before he stepped into office. It took Pearlman nearly 3 fucking years to write this book. It wasn’t written overnight the way Malkin’s was.

      September 29, 2011at10:31 pm Reply
      • egbert

        the point is not that i think only politicians should be written about, the point is that there is nothing to gain other than money for the author to write about a dead man’s secrets (and these were to walter secrets not for public consumption). he was an athlete, it isn’t important that i know about his personal life, because it has no impact on my life.

        someone like pain running for vice president, it is important to know about her personal life if it has an impact on decisions she would make while in public office. why is this distinction, so difficult for jeffy-boy’s worshippers?

        i have never sat around thinking about payton or worshipping him as you seem to believe. his personal life is not of interest to me and it shouldn’t be to you either. if he breaks the law, then sure, he’s open to criticism. but tell me how are his marital infidelities worthy of public knowledge. that’s between him and his family. if some scorned mistress ten years later wants to give jeffy-boy the dirt because he slips her some cash, does that mean jeffy-boy is absolved of being a sleazy jounalist? writing second hand reports from mistresses? how does that make jeffy-boy a good journalist? he’s not uncovering government corruption, he’s exposing embarrassing private issues in a private man’s life. because payton had the audacity to play professional football, that makes him open game to exposing his life to the public? explain to me why you think that is right. i’d love to know.

        rose colored glasses plays no part in how i feel. i don’t want to know because it’s not my business, it’s not yours and it’s not jeffy-boy’s. he should get a gig with the enquirer and write about people who seek out public scrutiny like paris hilton.

        September 29, 2011at10:54 pm Reply
      • Tony Franco

        How do you know this dude has the best of intentions? Because he said so?

        September 30, 2011at1:25 am Reply
      • Brent

        well said Marty.

        September 30, 2011at9:55 am Reply
  • Bill

    I’ve read 3 of your books, on the Cowboys, Mets, and Barry Bonds, and look forward to reading this one too. I wonder though, if the marketing department has done you a disservice by highlighting the more salacious aspects of Walter Payton’s life in the initial roll-out of your book. I think that will turn off a lot of people who may have bought the book and will allow people to tag you as a take-down artist, instead of as someone who took the time to present a full, honest portrait of Walter.

    September 29, 2011at7:56 pm Reply
  • Dee

    When the world slips you a Jeffrey, stroke the furry wall.

    September 29, 2011at8:45 pm Reply
  • Tim Walter

    Crusifiction for cash. It is in journalism every day the fact that it is what sells is just one more strike against civilization. Why people invite negativity in is beyond me. Why people push it, is greed, imo. Even by disagreeing with it I am supporting it, which is frustrating. But, people should allow SOMETHING to be good in this world without trying to tear it down.

    September 29, 2011at8:55 pm Reply
  • Brandon Simpson

    Initially, I was disappointed when I read the ESPN article about the release of such a book. Maybe I was enjoying living in a “cloud of ignorance.” However, I am definitely going to give your book a chance; I will order it for my Kindle the day it comes out. It sounds like a sincere attempt at painting a complete picture of someone whom I feel is the greatest sports hero of my lifetime. We know these guys are not perfect. How different was Payton from any of us, really? These flaws may tarnish Payton’s accomplishments in the eyes of some; for me, however, I am hoping to see someone who, like me, was heroic but also human and certainly fallible.

    A troubled personal life doesn’t change what Payton did for others. It just makes him a little more like the rest of us.

    September 29, 2011at10:51 pm Reply
  • Dylan

    To the detractors, Jeff is a journalist. An artist painting an honest portrait of a man. Was this man real? Yes. Did he have his own problems? Absolutely. Do we all have our own problems and fears? Of course. You’d be lying out of your ass to think otherwise. This doesn’t tarnish the legacy of Mr. Payton… If anything, it allows it to shine even more. With this book, someone can look at Walter’s life and learn a lot about a very intriguing public figure. It doesn’t matter whether the subject is a politician, religious figure, businessman, etc… If they have an interesting and engaging story that the reader can take away from in order to reflect on their own lives, then I’m all for it. I look forward to this book. It should be a refreshing perspective on a mysterious man

    September 29, 2011at10:57 pm Reply
    • egbert

      i’m pretty sure there are things we can learn about your private secrets that would help us reflect on our own lives. would you mind in a follow up relating your most humiliating problems so we can all “learn” and “grow”? he was a footbal player, you do whatever you do. because we watched him play football, it’s okay to scrutinize him, but not you as well? his fame does not make what jeffy-boy did okay.

      be real, be open, give us your dirt, dylan. i’m sure it would be entertaining and by your reasoning we as your public can become better people through your humiliation.


      September 29, 2011at11:18 pm Reply
    • Tony Franco

      This book might be a great thing if every person that has seen the headlines or the excerts would go out and read the book,learn something and then go out to make the world a better place….The problem is we both know that will not be the case. Sorry but it’s the simple truth.

      September 30, 2011at1:29 am Reply
      • Dylan

        Tony F, thats really up to the individual to go buy the book if they are so inclined. If it changes one person’s perspective on anything from professional athletes to the stigma of mental illness, then is it not worth it?
        egbert: i’m 22 years old and haven’t been through nearly as much as walter had. I battled with depression during high school while abusing marijuana and to a lesser extent alcohol. I’ve dropped out of college twice , currently in a third program. I find myself struggling with who I am in life and what I want to be, which causes some problems in my relationships. Is that good, or did you want me to go in detail about the fight I had in 6th grade?

        October 1, 2011at7:11 pm Reply
  • Bobby Fetter
    September 29, 2011at11:03 pm Reply
  • Jonathon R

    The problem I have with this biography is that it serves no real purpose other that to besmirch the man’s name. Just about everything you reveal is something most typical people will encounter in their lives. The man did not run for political office or go around condemning others for things he was doing. He was a complicated man who had personal issues but was a great football player who tried to do some good for others.

    Would you like it if someone wrote a book detailing the deeply private issues of your father or mother for no other reason than the author could? Everyone knew Payton was a flawed man, we just don’t need to publicize it and make a buck off of it.

    September 29, 2011at11:10 pm Reply
    • TMC

      The issue with your first sentence, though, is that your sweeping judgment of a 400+ page book is based on a 7 page sample. You have NO idea what the purpose of the book is, or the thesis, or the subtext or anything else. Neither do I. You could be right. But at the moment, you’re basically just guessing.

      Also, based on the responses, it doesn’t seem like “everyone knew Payton was a flawed man.” Seems like quite a few people are blown away by the idea that a multimillionaire pro athlete may have cheated on his wife.

      September 30, 2011at2:28 am Reply
  • David G

    Jeff, I don’t think this was a hatchet job. I think you probably wrote an amazing book that is insightful, accurate, and compelling. But I do think you have a history. I’ve written this to you in the past, and you dismiss it, but you have written a lot over the years about the bad side of people. You’ve written many great things but also have a tendency to take folks apart in your writing. Look at the titles of your books: The Bad Guys Won, Boys Will Be Boys, the Rocket that Fell to Earth, Love Me Hate Me. There’s a trend, man. And this is all in addition to Rocker and the piece where you compliment David Wells but call him fat. You can justify all these things all you want – and you do, constantly – but people are not going to give you the benefit of the “hatchet job” doubt when you continuously write about people’s bad sides. And I get that writing a biography means revealing things about people. But if you wonder why other writers may not get the crap for it that you do, it’s because you have made it a huge part of your volume of work. Deny it all you want, but it’s true.

    September 29, 2011at11:31 pm Reply
    • Marty

      so you’re suggesting he be a hack like Rick Reilly can be most of the time? If you’re playing it safe and only doing fairy tale shit, it’s disingenuous and people can read right through it.

      September 30, 2011at12:48 am Reply
      • Tony Franco

        I think the point is the author acts as if he has no responibility for how the book has been marketed thus far, as if he had no idea that the national media would focus on the the dirt in the book and is actually saddened by it….he has a lot of previous experience in this area. Obviously quite good at slinging the mud, he is a bestseller after all. I personally don’t need the dirt on any of these guys and there is no denying the damage it does to the people around them. What if this guys was your brother, or father?

        September 30, 2011at1:35 am Reply
  • Joe

    Shenanigans. Telling people not to judge the book by the excerpts is silly. You or your publisher decided which excerpts to release, presumably to attract attention to the book. If you want people to believe this is a definitive biography, then it shouldn’t just be the “explosive” details that make into the promotion.

    September 30, 2011at12:00 am Reply
  • Alan

    There is simply no reason to bring these claims into the light in this manner. No one has any “right to know,” regarding these topics. It serves no purpose to expose these things other than to either trash & smear Walter Payton and his family, or gain attention for this book to get more people to buy it out of morbid curiosity. Either way it doesn’t say much for you.
    And as for not wanting people to judge the book on the 7 pages in SI; really? I call BS on that. You’re the one who choose to highlight the tabloid aspects in your book by putting them in SI. And again why did you do this? Well of course to draw attention to the book, so you could sell more copies and make more money off of someone else’s alleged troubles. Frankly I think you are very sick and depraved individual.

    September 30, 2011at12:14 am Reply
  • Eddie

    You can write what you want. My issue is with the marketing move (and SI) using the shock value excerpts of your book. I’m sure you knew this would be the media focus? Is that what you wanted?
    I appreciate and understand that you want to write an unbiased account of his life. It may not be the whole truth, but I personally would not have included the parts that tarnish his legacy and cause harm to his family and people who grew up idolizing him.

    If Walter were here to defend himself, ok. But unfortunately he’s not.

    I’m on the fence about reading this book. I idolized Walter growing up…but feel I owe it to him not to buy this book. Maybe I’ll donate the money instead.

    September 30, 2011at12:17 am Reply
  • Fourjp

    since it seems your primary concern is bringing up dirt, and exploiting the deepest negative issues in someones life with virtually no regard for anything except how you choose to put it..
    Prove that you are not a whore.
    Donate the proceeds to the Payton foundation.. Or any charity Walter or his family supports…
    Or better yet… Have Connie suggest a charity..
    OTHERWISE… it only proves your desire to benefit from exposing the shortcomings of others, that nothing is sacred, and it is your right to do so as you choose…
    You choose to profit from the pain of others…
    You are a Coward and a Whore
    please feel free to contact me with the details of your choosing to donate all if the proceeds as I would like to follow up..

    September 30, 2011at1:30 am Reply
    • Dr. K.

      Yeah, someone calls me a coward and a whore, I always donate to the charity of their choice. Try again.

      September 30, 2011at4:23 am Reply
    • Walter Payton's GREATNESS Lives on the Field!

      Hear, hear, Fourjp, on Pearlman offering up the possibility of donating the proceeds of his book to the Payton Foundation! Somehow, though, I’m not sure if Mr. Pearlman will endeavor replying to this WONDERFUL suggestion of yours! Three cheers, though!

      October 2, 2011at7:27 am Reply
  • Jess

    What I don’t understand about anybody who automatically gets angry at this book being published, is why they feel entitled to care. The only people who should honestly be outraged, if outrage is necessary, about some bad publicity about Payton are the people who knew him in person, who were actually members of his family or close friends. Them, I get.

    As several people have happened to mention, Payton himself is dead, and rather than deciding that that means he’s “unable to defend himself”, I’d say the responsibility for that simply transfers to his family. Payton is, in fact, gone. He is not hurt by this book personally. It’s his family that should decide whether this perspective of him is false or degrading, and I sincerely doubt that anyone writing a comment here falls into that category.

    Yes, as a fan, some of your views of your “childhood hero” may be damaged. But those views are views that you yourself fabricated in the first place. You never met the guy. You never sat down and had a conversation with him even once. Jeff Pearlman is not a man to randomly create falsehoods about a sports star, so whatever he has written, that has always been the real truth. Your private truth, your view of him as a hero, has always operated separately from the truth in that book. So I don’t see why those two truths can’t still coexist now: just don’t read the book, the way you didn’t look deeper into his life before. He can still be a flawless, inhuman miracle in your head: that’s the only place any celebrity ever is that way to begin with.

    September 30, 2011at1:37 am Reply
    • egbert

      this isn’t about sticking up for a childhood hero. my only heroes were my parents. it’s about human decency. no one thinks payton was flawless. you’re missing the point. my life is unchanged by hearing about payton’s flaws. but, his children’s lives are changed. jeffy-boy hurt his kids and that is on his own conscience to deal with.

      i have not once disputed the veracity of jeffy-boy’s claims. i doubt jeffy-boy made up any of his assertions. i am not calling jeffy-boy a liar. he is probably an honest person. he just didn’t need to print this stuff unless he wished to make money on sleazy tattle tale stuff. and mistresses, not family or teammates are inferior sources. you give scurilous info on a dead man’s wife via his mistress’ claims? wow. now that is pulitzer prize worthy stuff.

      and you are wrong, i did meet walter payton. i used to watch him sprint for distances that most humans could only jog. i grew up a half mile from his home in arlintgon heights, illinois where he lived for many years. i am not here to defend his behavior or whitewash it. cheating on your wife is shi**y regarldless of your station in life.

      but what i do know is he was a friendly man. i once worked at a restaurant he frequented and gave massive tips to. he was obviously a complicated man with demons, which we all have to some degree. but he also cared about others. he proved that over and over through the years.

      no one has any reason to hear about walter’s innermost fears. if jeffy-boy had any heart he would know this. shame on jeffy-boy and shame on all of you who have defended his right to be a sleaze monger.

      September 30, 2011at4:09 am Reply
    • Eddie

      Speak for yourself. Obviously other people feel different about this.

      September 30, 2011at1:41 pm Reply
  • Matt Percy

    Jeff, 45 comments offering various *Advice*, but at the end of the day I just read the piece on SI and it is awesome writing Man, I am sure that you are very proud of it…as you should be.

    Good Luck and as always I will be ordering my copy from out here in Australia!!

    September 30, 2011at2:06 am Reply
    • egbert

      let’s guess how many of these posts giving jeffy-boy props for a job well done with various names are actually jeffy-boy himself (or one of his few friends or family members who don’t hate him). some guy in australia is now applauding jeffy-boy’s writing skills? yeah, that rings true. be a man jeffy-boy and stop posting under assumed names.

      September 30, 2011at2:23 am Reply
      • Matt Percy

        Mate, this is not Jess. I can tell you that for sue…Coral Drive, Jerrabomberra, NSW Australia…Google it my friend!!

        September 30, 2011at4:24 am Reply
        • Matt Percy

          I meant Jeff..sorry about that!!

          September 30, 2011at4:25 am Reply
          • Matt Percy

            My spelling on this, not great in my haste to tell you that I am fairly sure Jeff(Y-Boy…is this correct?) has better stuff to do than make up a fake Aussie…By the way, its cold here today and I am still upset that the Sox lost in such an epic collapse last night – your time)

            September 30, 2011at4:27 am
          • Matt Percy

            By the way, Capital A in Australia please.

            September 30, 2011at4:28 am
          • egbert

            you will be ordering your copy of a book about an athlete you have never heard of before? yeah, that rings true, mate.

            make sure you include a “toss one on the barbie” comment with your reply so we know how truly australian you are.

            i personally can’t wait to read about the marital problems and depression of adelaide’s footballer, geoff imakethingsup. what a read that will be!

            September 30, 2011at4:40 am
      • Dee

        It’s either him or some of his buds at sports illustrated.

        September 30, 2011at4:39 am Reply
        • Matthew Percy

          I love this – I went to New York in 2000…Loved it!! Adelaide in the AFL (Aussie Rules) Good Call, but after their terrible 2011 season not sure anyone could be bothered doing a book on Patty Dangerfield or Scott Thompson.

          I do not know Jeff Pearlman, I do believe that it is ok (maybe just in my world) to read a book about a guy you have never seen play (This is legal in the US, yes?)..

          Matt (Australia…I gave you my address, google !!)

          September 30, 2011at6:51 am Reply


    September 30, 2011at3:05 am Reply


    September 30, 2011at3:07 am Reply
  • Asherdan

    Man if all you swamp-water whiny rats cost me a Quaz today…

    Man you guys are for suck.

    September 30, 2011at3:19 am Reply
    • Matt Percy

      haha, love this one!! Where is the Quaz?

      September 30, 2011at4:36 am Reply
  • walter

    Hopefully Jeffry your going to catch a real ass kicking for this. Your a twit, probably not even old enough to have seen the man play. Can’t wait to hear that you got your ass whooped for this.

    September 30, 2011at3:19 am Reply
  • egbert


    i respect you for not deleting negative posts about what you did. how about crawling out from your hole and stop responding under assumed names and use your own name to refute your detractors? we’re waiting for you, jeffy-boy.

    i have seen some threats to you physically today on other sites. that is wrong and unfounded. you don’t deserve threats, but you do deserve rebukes for your cowardice today. you seem to be shaking in your boots right now. grow a pair and respond and be honest.

    please, no more nonsense about historical accuracy, just say why you did this; money. when you admit it was done for money, then i say, “okay, that is how he sees his job.” i don’t agree, but i understand. it’s your way of making money to support yourself.

    no one has to buy your books if they don’t want to. but until you admit that you did this book for money, not because you were, ‘intrigued’ by payton, then you have to keep taking this abuse. be honest. as a journalist, you look for truth. be truthful about your own intentions. if you don’t then you are a liar.

    September 30, 2011at3:38 am Reply
    • Dr. K.

      Wow. You’re delusional.

      September 30, 2011at4:24 am Reply
      • egbert

        hey great post dr. k,

        dont give any reason why you feel that way, just a personal shot. that tells me you aren’t smart enough to give an opinion. well done.

        September 30, 2011at4:27 am Reply
        • Matt Percy

          Hi Egbert,

          Talking about fake names and hiding etc…what kind of a name is Egbert anyway? Like Madonna you have only 1 name? Come out of hiding old son!!

          Matt from Australia (No, really I am !! and its still cold here!!)

          September 30, 2011at4:30 am Reply
          • egbert

            matt, you prove to me you’re really from australia, then will let you stay at my house when you visit chicago. hop off your qantas flight and i’ll pick you up from ohare and i will show you the sights.

            September 30, 2011at5:17 am
        • Dr. K

          Here’s my opinion: if you accuse someone of paying for salicious information, you better have some pretty good evidence. Where is yours?

          September 30, 2011at5:39 am Reply
          • Matthew Percy


            If I can prove this I am totally staying at your place.

            1. My email address is (Note the .au) email me and I will email you right back;
            2. Why would I pretend I am Australain, why not somewhere more exotic;
            3. Not sure how else, perhaps the email thing…I can prove it!!


            September 30, 2011at6:57 am
          • Matthew Percy

            P.S Good riddance to Ozzie G?? Surely yes??

            September 30, 2011at6:59 am
  • ts

    I have not and will not read your… anything… You are a shallow, fool of a man that has an ability to write, a sports writer mind you, but a “writer” technically. You are not from Chicago, you did not grow up in Chicago. There is no way in Hell you can possibly know what he meant to kids growing up here. What he meant to generations of families sharing his moments. What he meant to rabid bears fans here for years. There was much more to Walter than just Sunday afternoons, yes. But on Sunday afternoons, he was OURS. Why drag up dirt ten plus years after he is gone? Don’t fancy yourself as a skilled writer, your a bloody sports writer. Many “journalists” just can’t leave well enough alone anymore. Have to arouse people? I hope you get what you you deserve douche bag. Well Happy Hanukkah and go fuck yourself.

    September 30, 2011at4:26 am Reply
  • Brad

    I have been the journalist before. Heck, I have a few state-level awards hanging on my wall; however, I can’t support writing negative things about someone who has been dead for 12 years. If he could defend himself, it would be another story.

    You are what I would call a muckraker. Let’s face it, your writing has not always been the most accurate. No one should forget about the unverifiable quote you attributed to Brian Cashman.

    Instead of being a journalist, you’ve become a media whore – dwelling on the issues that can become sensationalized. You may work for Sports Illustrated and have a book deal, but I do not see you as even an equal. Without integrity, we are nothing. Well, you’re nothing.

    September 30, 2011at4:34 am Reply
  • Dee

    Hey Jeffey boy, when you coming to Chicago for the book signing?

    September 30, 2011at4:34 am Reply
  • Brent

    egbert… i read most of your comments and some of them have some credibility. i do believe your sincerity and good-intentions in wanting what is best for the legacy of Payton and the Paytons. i applaud you for that. however, you do come off a bit harsh towards some of the commenters which tends to weaken your points. when the espn article first came out about the book release, i was initially against it. however, i realized it is how the media frames the “misdoings” of payton that i think gets people so polarized. what if the espn article was titled “new book reveals payton was human after all”… and it wasn’t so sensationalized? i think most people would feel sad for Payton instead of thinking how these issues coming out are tarnishing his legacy. it’s how society frames drug usage/mental health issues/etc. the people that think these issues tarnish his legacy are the people that think these issues make somebody a bad person…. but it shouldn’t. we cannot let the media continue to frame these stereotypes as something horrible or, yes, payton’s image will be tarnished for those why buy into the idea that human weaknesses makes somebody a bad person.

    September 30, 2011at4:41 am Reply
  • Anthony

    Mr. Pearlman,
    I have not read your new Walter Payton book, nor would I. Your closing comment on the SI site about your concern of hurting the Payton children is the most spineless statement I’ve ever heard. Your desire to write a “definitive” book about Walter Payton is a stupid and ridicules statement, the bottom-line is you decided to take shots at a guy who couldn’t defend himself while hiding behind the shroud media people use as an excuse, “citing the truth”. At some point in your life you will ask yourself, is there value (non-monetary) in what I am writing…the answer for this garbage is “no”. There is no value beyond the monetary means you will make from this book. In addition, I am sure deep down there is probably some other reason that fueled your desire to write this worthless of body of work. Beyond the money, did he reject you from an interview so you decided you would target this man who died 12 years ago. In closing, you are a spineless, weak individual who I hope someday someone will chronic all of your shortcomings. Ask for penance Jeff!

    September 30, 2011at5:12 am Reply
  • egbert


    i appreciate what you said and i take it to heart. i am not intending to hurt anyone with my posts. and if i have, then i apologize (jeffy-boy excluded). but, i am not writing about this because i want to shield the payton family or care about the legacy of walter payton. that is not my point at all. he was a man with flaws.

    i just can’t comprehend how people can think it’s okay to write about a man’s private thoughts when there is no reason other than to make money to do so. i have spoken to friends about some dark thoughts myself and if i found out they had sold my thoughts to a writer of an unauthorized biography i would be hurt beyond belief.

    just because payton played football shouldn’t make his innermost thoughts open to public discussion. why should his marital problems and suicidal thoughts be open for public discussion? i find that an invasion of a man’s privacy that is disgraceful regardless of what he did for a living.

    you may disagree, i accept that. but, the idea of writing about a man’s darkest secrets without his okay is something i find repellent and those of you who think jeff pearlman is a good guy by opening up this man’s secrets without his permission, then i question your own humanity. not because he was a great athlete, but because he was a human being who has children and never wanted this discuessed by the public.

    September 30, 2011at5:12 am Reply
    • Matthew Percy

      The heat comes out of your argument when you typle jeffy-boy within every comment…that is all!!

      September 30, 2011at6:47 am Reply
    • Brent

      i can’t say jeff is a good guy either way and it was never my intention to portray that. whatever his intentions are of not any concern to me. i assume that b/c he is a journalist he is going to write about matters that the public would have an interest in knowing about. i think any athlete/celebrity/public figure opens his private life up to journalistic scrutiny whether alive or not…. whether he meant for something to be mentioned in private or not. the problem should be with the employees/friends if in fact they did “sell out”. but maybe they didn’t. maybe they shared this information about a peoples’ hero hoping it might help others. i certainly hope they tried to get him some help while he was alive. the only dark secret that i am aware of was that he wanted to kill himself and his family. this darkest secret could have gotten his family killed. It was not his intention to hurt them. It was his illness talking. his affairs didn’t seem to be a secret. his drug addition… not a secret.

      anyways, i do understand your viewpoint and seem like a good guy but as long as the author doesn’t make up stories, no matter how the writer obtained the truth, it will always serve the best interests of everybody in the long run… his children included (as painful as it might be to deal with right now). as well, not to mention the utmost importance of freedom speech. don’t blame the messenger, no matter how he obtained the truth.

      September 30, 2011at9:39 am Reply
    • TMC

      I think you could easily make an argument that a book like this could serve a serious public good. Two ways:

      1) Raising awareness and social acceptance of depression as a real crippling issue, rather than a “weakness” as so many people believe. Sad to say, it often takes a celebrity to get a disease before people treat it seriously.

      2) Increasing the focus on the way football absolutely completely ruins people’s lives. There is mounting evidence these days that a great deal of football players (not just NFL, but college and even high school) are physically, emotionally, and socially ruined by the game they play and the lifestyles they lead at their peak. There is a serious public discussion that needs to be had at some point about the costs of this game, and we’re getting closer to it every day. Just like in point #1, people may not take this seriously until they see how it affects their icons (rather than faceless college kids and no-name NFL players).

      I don’t know if the book DOES all this. But it seems to me that those are at least two easy, legit reasons to defend the airing of this information.

      September 30, 2011at9:48 pm Reply
  • Graham Womack


    I’ve read about a third of these comments and can’t take any more of the stupidity. It’s a cool move to let the comments stand, even if reading them depresses me. What these people don’t understand about journalism or the job of any half-competent writer is astonishing.

    Anyhow, keep up the good work.

    Graham Womack

    September 30, 2011at5:43 am Reply
    • egbert

      great graham, be vague and not give specific examples. just support jeffy-boy and say everyone not in his corner is stupid. jeffy-boy either has dumb friends not able to argue well, or maybe just maybe no one can give a good argument supporting jeffy-boy? try again, graham or go watch some two and half men reruns.

      September 30, 2011at5:51 am Reply
      • Dr. K

        Speaking of specific examples, I’m still waiting for yours—based on your accusation that Pearlman paid people for salicious information.

        September 30, 2011at6:08 am Reply
    • dave

      as a fellow jew, i wish i was with you at services next week Pearlman. you would be an absolute hit, you focking douche. i think it BS that you get to put this out and then immediately next week atone for your sins. not fair. i think you shouldnt be able to atone for this until at least next year.

      September 30, 2011at9:49 pm Reply
  • gopackgo

    Even as a Packers fan, I am disappointed in this book. I will refrain from referring to you as many of the expletives that come to mind and appear all over these postings, and instead ask you some questions. While you do have the freedom to write this book do you personally think that it is ethical? What possible purpose does it serve to write the negative aspects of a man who has passed away over a decade ago? From reading most of your blog posts you seem to be a controversial writer, constantly writing on the negative aspects of rather than the positive. Please respond to the two questions I have raised. Sports journalists have continually disgusted me over my years as a college athlete and I guess I should stop expecting them to be moral.

    September 30, 2011at6:58 am Reply
  • Andy Frain

    Hi Jeff.
    Yeah man, you feel conflicted. And bummed. You can chalk your book up to the pursuit of honest journalism. You’re a messenger of truth, and we need that in the world, now more than ever. Or so your mantra goes.
    You’re a gifted researcher and writer, one whose talents and determination can tell a story. I can appreciate that.
    But save the “I encourage you to take in 460 pages, not seven” rap. Come on, man. You know where the explosive headlines are, you know what will be the most provocative. You overlook that the culture you’re feeding won’t individually read every page of your damn book. No matter your intentions, you wrote Payton a new seven-page biography. You’re a stylized writer who underestimates the electronic magnification of hard boiled bytes.
    And please don’t tell your readers how to read. Your readers are telling you what they’ve read, and they’ve got some personal questions of their own about the book’s author, pure and simple.
    At the end of all this, you’ll add to your publishing portfolio, make some scratch for work done well, get people talking more about your name and background than Walter Payton’s, and espouse the virtues of honest profiles of well-known, even beloved, people. Great. You still outed a man’s personal weaknesses, and did so after the man was dead. Get that part right.
    Should we not do the same for Marilyn Monrow and Jim Morrison, you asked? Good quesiton. You know the answer? We’re not. You are. See the difference? You make a sweeping indictment about a culture’s inflated perceptions of its pop stars, and you’re the one inflating the perceptions, not the rest of us.
    Is this book more self-analysis than Payton analysis? Do us all a favor, Jeff. Keep your personal demons personal and quit projecting them through other people.
    Anyway, I’m rambling. You can impress yourself with an achieved sense of journalistic integrity that either means a helluva lot more to you than it does us or neither of us cares much about Jeff Pearlman’s journalistic integrit to begin with, and one of us is making money off it. That matters to Payton’s family, how.
    I still believe in Walter Payton, and believe less in your interpretation of honest journalism and the need for public consumption. Your book to me symbolizes exploitation for the sake of personal glory and a misguided journalistic immunity based on the new Truth 2.0 culture you both pray for and submit to.
    Your book only prves that Payton was above that standard, imperfections and all. Walter’s problems were entirely personal. Your problems, Jeff, are very, very public.

    Andy Frain

    September 30, 2011at7:39 am Reply
  • Daniel York

    Where is your proof with this though. You say your trying to write a definitive account of his life but you weren’t there to know. So where is this truth coming from. You said the family was not supportive so it did not come from them. Who gave you this information…..and is it just a coincidence that everything you wrote would make for a good selling book, or could it be that you just make it like that. I hope the family of Walter Payton sues you and you never have the chance to dishonor another person again. You can try and justify what your doing however you would like to make yourself feel good about what you wrote, just know that your wrong and saying your right a million times won’t change that. I don’t wish any kind of harm on you because that would be wrong but I hope this kills your career.

    September 30, 2011at8:30 am Reply
  • pt

    Egbert – why are you so condescending and insisting on calling Jeff, jeffy-boy. You know his proper name, use it.

    At the end of the day that almost shows the level of your argument – pith and pathetic. I really think you need to get off this thread as I have read most of the comments and you are just repeating the same comments ad frigging nauseum – we get it you dislike the book and Jeff’s reasons for writing it, enough already.

    I for one would rather have a book with balance, which the book appears to be, and these arguments are based on an excerpt, and finally 678 interviews, the majority of which on the record – they can’t all be wrong.

    And this kiwi living in the UK is backing an Aussie for once, looking forward to ordering it. The book once we all get a chance to read the whole thing will be good and we can make our own conclusions then.

    September 30, 2011at9:59 am Reply
    • dee

      So with this argument you are making here about 678 people said all these bad things about Walter “they all can’t be wrong.” Are you saying that all these people had it in for Walter and said all these bad things about him? You have hard cord proof that these 678 people said this? Who would of thunk huh? What a stupid comment for you to make.

      Here is an excerpt from Jarrett Payton’s facebook page today:
      “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.” Good bless Walter Payton and his family!

      Still coming to Chicago for that book signing Jeff?

      September 30, 2011at10:13 pm Reply
  • Mike

    Thanks for writing the book as it’s saving me money. I just cancelled my SI subscription today and told them why. I have to laugh – a writer spends all that time and energy writing this trash and in the end it won’t change anyone’s opinion on Walter Payton (the athlete or the man). Major Fail. Let us hope someone doesn’t write a Jeff Pearlman bio someday so we can learn all of your flaws. One Payton fact is for certain: Payton did more good in his life for others than you will ever do or dream to do.

    September 30, 2011at10:33 am Reply
  • Ryan


    I’ve commented on this blog a few times, and I fear my comment will get lost in the abyss of this topic, but here’s my question:

    Obviously in your research, the good came with the bad – and for better or for worse, SI decided to use most of the big bad revelations. There’s a lot of backlash against it from Bears fans who regard Payton as a saint.

    Did you reach out to his family or inner circle with any of this information before publishing? I would hate to think Connie woke up, read the excerpt, and learned of her late-husband’s cheating, or if one of his closest friends learned of his drug abuse from your writing.

    If you could respond to this, I’d appreciate it. If not, no worries.

    September 30, 2011at10:34 am Reply
  • cyndi

    You are a douche who set out to write a scathing tell all of a beloved and DECEASED hero and legend to many. I saw all your excuses and reasoning, but why write a book smearing not only the legend of the gridiron and revered man to many, but also a husband to his wife and a dad to his kids, NOW? I am guessing you were a kid when he played football and that you really don’t realize how special he was to many. I have a feeling you are about to find out. Chicago is a very unforgiving city, esp when you mess with one of theirs and Sweetness was theirs. You should also know, a boycott was started on Facebook and that wont be good for you, perhaps your Karma. A Flag on the play.

    September 30, 2011at1:40 pm Reply
  • Bill

    You a worthless piece of garbage… trying to make money off a classy football player… Maybe you can use the money for the hair club for men…

    September 30, 2011at1:41 pm Reply
  • Sportswriting Refugee

    Ryan – Not to presume to speak for Jeff, but did your read the excerpt? Connie met the mistress at the Hall of Fame induction. She confirmed that in a Chicago TV interview yesterday. She was well aware of his cheating. Jeff’s story noted that Connie declined to speak to him for his book. I don’t get the feeling that their marriage was a particularly happy one.

    September 30, 2011at1:50 pm Reply
  • BA

    Keep doing what you’re doing Jeff. I’ll continue to read it.

    September 30, 2011at2:10 pm Reply
  • Byron

    After reading a lot of these comments, I am left wondering did many of these commenters believe that Walter Payton was God? The guy played football, ran really fast and seemed like a cool guy.

    That doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have cheated on his wife, or abused prescription drugs or farted in church. People aren’t perfect and I think that what Pearlman’s book (and most books like this) are trying to show is that under the veneer of perfection on the field, people are people are people. All of us have some sort of demon that we struggle with in our day-to-day lives, and Payton is no different.

    It doesn’t make Payton a bad guy or change his legacy at all. And it certainly doesn’t make Jeff Pearlman a bad guy for writing about it. The truth is the truth.

    I would guess that most of you commenting negatively on Pearlman’s piece in SI are adults, but you’re behaving like starstruck children. It’s very odd.

    September 30, 2011at2:26 pm Reply
  • Jeff Sorenson

    If it isnt about money than donate all the proceeds to charity.

    September 30, 2011at2:26 pm Reply
  • Matt

    I support your pursuit of the truth. To do anything less is to dishonor him.

    September 30, 2011at2:48 pm Reply
  • MIKE


    September 30, 2011at3:05 pm Reply
  • Justin

    This entry is titled “The Truth?” You obviously know nothing of it. You’re a dirty, rotten liar!

    September 30, 2011at3:14 pm Reply
  • Rusty Jay

    As a rabid Cowboys fan, Boys Will Be Boys was a fascinating read about my favorite football team in the 90’s. I learned so much about the behind-the-scenes of the Cowboys, not only the highs we saw on the field, but the lows of the drug use, the constant flow of women into the “White House,” the problems of the Cowboys.

    For me, as a fan, I quickly learned these players I idolized as I went through high school, were in fact, human. Were they my heroes? Absolutely. Are they still? Without a doubt. The fact remains after reading Boys Will Be Boys, I felt I could relate to the Cowboys even more as I got to see how human, how flawed, how imperfect they were.

    I cannot wait to read this book. I cannot wait to gain an insight into one of the greatest running backs of all time, not only as to what he accomplished on the field but how he battled his own personal demons which in turn, defined who he was as a person.

    September 30, 2011at3:33 pm Reply
  • Bobby Fetter

    Uh-Oh….Ditka is pissed. At least it’s free publicity…

    September 30, 2011at3:43 pm Reply
    • Brian

      Great response from Ditka, as he asks, “What gives [Jeff Pearlman] any credibility? What’s his expertise, really?”

      Well, Mike, he is one of America’s most preeminent sportswriters; he has published four books, two of which NY Times Best Sellers.

      September 30, 2011at10:25 pm Reply
      • Red

        Published four books, all of which were hatchet jobs. That hardly qualifies him as a “preeminent writer.”

        October 1, 2011at12:48 am Reply
        • Red

          What he really is is the Kitty Kelley of sportswriters

          October 1, 2011at12:49 am Reply
  • Sportswriting Refugee

    The argument I think is weird is that this book or others like it hurt the survivors to this unbearable degree. They are all adults, and successful ones at that. I’ve read a lot of serious biographies, including many of sports figures. A lot of times, the family members help out, including with unflattering information. Just because the Paytons presumably want to act unreasonably doesn’t mean that Jeff is under an obligation to accommodate them.

    September 30, 2011at3:45 pm Reply
  • Bill

    Mr Pearlman, I have to believe that you are jealous of Professional athletes. Every book that you publish is a negative diatribe about your subject matter. I would have to believe that you yourself were a failed athlete and unable to accept the fact that you could not excell at the highest level. Personally, the things you have written about Walter Payton do not change my opinion of him in any way. He was my childhood hero and that will never change. As you become an adult you realized that all of us are human and have our faults and shortcomings. I hope, for your sake, that no one ever decides to write a book like this about you. Because your children do not deserve to feel the way that you had to of made the Payton children feel. And I guarantee, that you have items in your past that you would be ashamed of if they came to light.

    September 30, 2011at3:59 pm Reply
  • Bobby Fetter
    September 30, 2011at5:01 pm Reply
  • Jeff in Westbury

    Just heard Jeff on Jim Rome and got the expected defense. The truth is the truth and I don’t regret the disclosures, question Mr. Pearlman’s motives or his eventual ROI from the book. But this one hit me hard since I am recovering from cancer treatment and rely on painkillers to get through the day. Anyone interested in my immediate reaction can comment on it:

    September 30, 2011at5:07 pm Reply
  • T

    What a bunch of monogamous bullshit. To say you’re just trying to report “history” from your “sources”, because you want to show the human side of Sweetness is pathetic. Save us your self-righteous nonsense, and just be man about. You’re in the book writing business to make money, hence your controversial subject matter. Again it’s pathetic that you’d try and hide behind some higher purpose of “informing” use on the real Walter, which is something you clearly know nothing about. Sure there were women and drugs. He was fucking human!! But he was a leader of men, a mentor to children and a relentless football player bar none that deserves far better than your mean attempt to make a dollar off of his memory. Enjoy your money asshole.

    September 30, 2011at6:01 pm Reply

    It’s like I said a while back in comments that took forever to be pulled from “awaiting moderation” (while pro-book comments were posted immediately, FYI) Jeff’s “truth” blog is at best a pity party. I am confused by the argument that the book can only be judged in its entirety, but then allowing SI to publish excepts that are a.) far less than the entirety and b.) apparently give a skewed perspective of the book. If the excepts that are fueling the fans reaction do not paint a full, fair picture of the 460-page book, then why blame the fans? Unless of course, your real goal is to sell lots of books to people who expect a shocking, tabloid-like tome? Again, you accept the juicy morsels being spewed out there to juice the sale of your book, then cry that fans are not judging the entirety of your work. If this duplicity is not obvious yet, I would be happy to explain it again.

    September 30, 2011at6:38 pm Reply
    • Donnie

      well said!

      October 1, 2011at12:18 pm Reply
  • Eddie

    It’s clear to me the reason for the backlash. You picked on maybe the one person who Chicagoans are most protective of. Walter Payton is a saint in Chicago and we all hold him near and dear to our hearts. If you had chosen Jordan, Ditka, Butkus, Sayers, etc…nobody would’ve been as upset. But Walter?

    If you wrote all these pages and didn’t understand this…then I can’t imagine it’s a ‘definitive’ biography.

    September 30, 2011at7:22 pm Reply
    • sjk333

      what is wrong with you people? famous or not do you have respect for his mans family?? what a bunch of bloodsuckers

      October 1, 2011at2:48 am Reply
  • Asherdan

    Hey Jeff, has a good bio of Ernie Banks been done yet? Chicago already hates you so you might want to give that idea a spin.

    September 30, 2011at7:46 pm Reply
  • Lyndsey

    Can we PLEASE talk about the fact that one of your “sources” (Bud Holmes) was a man that Walter Payton did not trust and would not associate with at the end of his life? I appreciate that you responded to my e-mail, but you didn’t answer the question, and this is a hugely important detail you are completely ignoring… THIS IS NOT A DEFINITIVE BIOGRAPHY IF YOUR LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR IS UNRELIABLE.

    September 30, 2011at8:51 pm Reply
  • Graham Womack

    Okay, specific examples of stupidity from other commenters:

    -Saying that it’s wrong to write about someone who’s not around to defend themselves. Guess that rules out a warts-and-all Hitler bio.

    -Slamming him for doing this for money. He’s a writer. This is his job. He probably has other motivations as well, but there’s nothing wrong with money being one of them. If I wrote a book, I’d hope to make money, too. I wouldn’t expect to since my favorite thing to write about is baseball history, but it would still be nice.

    -Saying it’s wrong for Pearlman to write the book if the family’s not on board. He’s not their PR agent.

    -All the name calling: jeffy-boy, whore, liar, sleaze monger, etc.

    -And this is just fucking retarded: “As an attorney, let me say that you’re just lucky you’re not in a criminal trial, because this garbage would be tossed out of court for violating the confrontation clause of the sixth amendment. To sum that up in one sentence: if an accused isn’t there to confront his accusers, whatever is said is thrown out (don’t believe me? look it up).”

    P.S. I don’t watch “Two and a Half Men,” so I can’t render an opinion on it. But it looks like it sucks.

    September 30, 2011at9:24 pm Reply
    • Brian

      Amen. You’re spot on, Graham.

      October 1, 2011at1:08 am Reply
      • sjk333

        wrong so very wrong

        October 1, 2011at2:44 am Reply
      • Tony

        -And this is just fucking retarded: “As an attorney.

        Wow that’s the best you can come up with? I don’t think I would want you defending me!

        October 1, 2011at11:36 am Reply
    • Tom Curtis

      To uphold the good in a person is to be a better role model for others, especially the young.

      It does not help anyone, does not uplift any values to point out a person’s weaknesses.

      How many times have you heard a young person say, well so and so did it, so it’s okay.

      But Pearlman does not care about that. HE wants to wallow in the pits, as he thinks people only want the bad stuff so they can be shocked and say—-

      As for the attorney who has to resort to the “F” word to feel he is speaking with any power, he is woefully inadequate mentally. And I would debate him on any day of the week.

      Do you think Will Rogers would have reported it that way ??? No he would not.

      History is likely to say that Will Rogers was and always will be a far better person than Pearlman. You understand about truth don’t you Pearlman.

      October 1, 2011at12:49 pm Reply
    • ted747

      Why do Pearlman’s supporters (possibly Pearlman himself using a pseudonym), keep using Hitler as an example? Really, Hitler? That is how you are going to support a bio which humiliates a dead sports hero’s (who has broken no laws and treated the publlic with respect and warmth) memory by saying if we can’t write warts and all about him, then we can’t write a Hitler bio?

      You don’t like name calling but people who wrote something you disagree with are “retarded”?

      It’s not that he is making money, it’s that he claimed in this post and other interviews he has given, that this is not about money. He has written four books previously. All were gossipy tomes. How is this one different?

      Pearlman owes nothing to Payton’s family, that doesn’t make what he has done right. What is lawful legally and morally are two separate things.

      October 1, 2011at10:14 pm Reply
      • Graham Womack

        Actually, I’m a real person. Click on the link to my blog and send me an email through my site. It’s pretty easy.

        Also, I’m not an attorney. I was quoting the guy who claimed to be me, though my guess is that he maybe does divorces for $99.

        October 14, 2011at3:20 pm Reply
  • Sportswriting Refugee

    I’m pretty sure the vast majority of you did not read the Sports Illustrated excerpt, let alone the book itself. There is no tabloid “tone” to it whatsoever.

    September 30, 2011at9:29 pm Reply
    • Jacob

      Well, the book isn’t even out yet so…

      October 1, 2011at9:31 pm Reply
      • Sportswriting Refugee

        Well, it’s pretty clear you loons didn’t read the excerpt.

        October 1, 2011at11:05 pm Reply
  • dave

    what goes around comes around. the only way a loser like this learns is when it comes back his way. you should only hope your family never has to deal with this type of embarrassment. good luck you piece of sh*t…

    September 30, 2011at9:32 pm Reply
  • Red

    Mr. Pearlman,

    It doesn’t just come off as a money play, your inclusion of such salacious material IS a money play. Your column in Friday’s Chicago Tribune explaining why you wrote the book makes that clear (it’s available on the Trib’s website for those who haven’t seen it.)

    In the column you say that after four months of research into Walter Payton the material you had was “painfully thin and woefully predictable.” From your description that all your research had yielded was “hackneyed bromides, repeated ad nauseum,” one might think you were ready to give up.

    And then, that “singular moment” arrived when you finally heard something shocking, that Payton had an illegitimate son, and “everything changed.” Your reasons for starting the research project remain unknown, but the reason for continuing the project and finishing the book is clear, by your own admission. You had uncovered highly personal secrets of a beloved public figure, and you wanted to share them.

    Why share them? Are any of us better for knowing Payton’s secrets? Does the fact that he struggled reveal a startling new insight into the human condition? Are Payton’s accomplishments either magnified or diminished by his personal struggles? Is the illegitimate son going to benefit from the public knowing who his father was? No, no, no and no.

    Your claim that the book has value because it portrays Payton as an enigma is disingenuous. Beneath our public personae, all humans are enigmas. The only value this information has is to earn money and notoriety for you from those who are titillated by such things. To sell your book, you needed to distinguish it from the dozen or so Payton biographies that have already been written.

    You ask above, “When is it OK to write about a late person’s shortcomings?” The answer is “when they are relevant to his role in public life.” Payton is universally admired for his superhuman feats on the football field, and his inspirational humanitarian efforts off of it. Do his alleged girlfriends shed light into the depth of his determination on the field? Was his (supposed) suicidal nature the driving force behind his kindness to complete strangers? Since these behaviors supposedly emerged after the talent and generosity, I can safely say “no.” Knowing that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with a Negro slave he owned is relevant to the historical record because those same ethical beliefs were a primary influence on the Declaration of Independence and the American way of life. Knowing that Payton (supposedly) had a girlfriend on the side tells us nothing in the context in which we admire him. Once he retired from football and public life his private struggles were just that, private.

    You point us to the other 453 pages of the book to justify the writing of the book and the inclusion of the other 7 pages. But the fact remains that Payton’s life is well documented in more than a dozen biographies (including those in anthologies), also covering the Columbia, Jackson State, Chicago Bears and post-football years. It is also public knowledge that many professional athletes are exposed to opportunities for marital infidelity, that they have challenging adjustments to their life after sports, and that pro football players in particular can suffer pain for decades after their careers end. The unique challenges of coping with terminal illness are also fairly common knowledge, as is the fact that no one is perfect and everyone has problems. Though we did not know the specifics, we all knew that Payton must have had challenges in his personal life if we took time to think about it, simply because he was human. Therefore the only significant new ground your book covers is the allegations in those seven pages. Your book was chosen for publication because of those seven pages. Those seven pages are the primary focus of the marketing of the book. So yes, Mr. Pearlman, your book is a hit job.

    For shame, Mr. Pearlman, for shame.

    October 1, 2011at12:55 am Reply
  • Ben

    This will be the one and only time I visit this site, Pearlman, you’ve already gotten too much attention for crucifying someone beloved by many. Why don’t you write your garbage about someone who is alive so they can defend themselves? I listened to your Dan Patrick interview, YOU LOVED WALTER PAYTON???????? Funny way of showing it on the cover of S.I.!!!!
    KARMA, if nothing else, will get you.

    October 1, 2011at1:10 am Reply
  • Red

    p.s. Your statement in today’s blog that you knew early on about the supposed girlfriend attending the HOF ceremony is in direct conflict with how you described the progression of your research and the moment of change in your column for the Tribune. Not sure why I’m bothering to point this out; you’ve already demonstrated that you are a man of little integrity.

    October 1, 2011at1:10 am Reply
  • sjk333

    what bothers me about this is that it had too be hurtful to the family. true of false if the family had knowledge of the things written in the book or not. My husband passed away 5 years ago and about two years after I heard from a so called friend of his that he had an affair, this person was not a trustworthy person and I believe it to be a lie, however true or false it was and still is heart wrenching so why would anyone want to write about some one who they have little knowledge about and is just going by hear say,even if he know it to be true if he had been there an witnessed these things why would you make it public? how selfish. I believe this author know what he was doing he couldn’t have been that surprised about the reaction like he said he was,he had to have know the publicity would help sell the book. I don’t know how people like him sleep at night

    October 1, 2011at2:41 am Reply
  • Aaron F. Rodgers

    A biographer wants to make money by writing a biography? What a jerk! You don’t want to know about it, fine. Don’t read it. It seems that few are willing to acknowledge that Payton’s stature and standing in the game is what makes this such an interesting subject. Why he should be immune to a biography escapes me. Because he’s dead? If he was alive it would be even more controversial. All of this anti-Jeff Pearlman strikes me as absurdly hypocritical when so many people are quick to post hateful and not-at-all sports related things on similar stories featuring Micheal Vick or Tiger Woods… Is it the magnitude of the scrutiny that bothers people? Perhaps if this were just a SI article or something, something easy to forget as opposed to a big volume sitting on a bookshelf staring out at people.

    I suspect many people involved in the Bears organization who have come out to slam this book do it out of a sense a guilt they feel about his depression or drug abuse or something.

    October 1, 2011at2:46 am Reply
  • Jessica

    To me, the saddest part of this, is that Walter Payton’s wife and children will be put in a terribly uncomfortable position because of this book. But to put Walters family through this (after having lived it) is incredibly thoughtless and unkind. I hope few will buy this book out of respect for the family that is left to deal with the information in this book. If you, Jeff Pearlman, don’t care if you profit from this book, then donate the proceeds to The Walter and Connie Payton Foundation, here’s the web address for it.

    October 1, 2011at3:06 am Reply
  • Christopher W

    Kudos to you, Jeff.

    October 1, 2011at3:09 am Reply
  • Michael

    How can one write a biography after one’s death. It supposed to be about their life. I don’t see how anyone could write this without actually being able to talk with the person it is about.

    October 1, 2011at3:40 am Reply
    • TMC

      About 95% of all biographies are written about deceased subjects. It’s the only way you can tell the story all the way to the end.

      October 3, 2011at11:37 am Reply
  • jared long

    honestly i think most of us know 700 people, or more, in which we have rubbed the wrong way throughout our lives. i am quite sure many of us have had dark moments in our lives we would like to erase. fortunately for most of us our story wouldnt sell books. to capitalize on this is wrong anyway you look at it. mr. pearlman i truely feel sorry for you. you are obviously a talented individual, but to hide behind so called journalistic integrity is sad. what about simple integrity, respect for his family. isnt there something to be said for r.i.p. if not, just man up and admit it was the money that inspired you to write something about a man so beloved that i am sure you have had malicious and hateful things said to you and about you. this book was a story that didnt need to be told.

    October 1, 2011at3:55 am Reply
  • Bobby Fetter

    Hey Jeff, They say the pen is mightier than the sword.
    I think you should eviscerate Ditka in literature. Let this be your inspiration:

    October 1, 2011at4:56 am Reply
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    ALpye3 puwbaykjrwzk, [url=]nmcsxgkvjmin[/url], [link=]gtrbbfgvjsla[/link],

    October 1, 2011at5:41 am Reply
  • Tom Hyson

    I understand you need to make a living and support your family, but why must you do this on the backs of others. There is a thing called an honest hard days work most of us true blooded Americans. We all have skeletons in our closets including you. Would you like me to write a book about how you peeded the bed when you were 7. Please. If this is the way you choose to make a living I feel sorry for you. I have a picture of Walter hanging in my office and every morning he gives me the drive to be a better person. I don’t need someone like you to Fuck that up. I suggest you stay out of Chicago for a long period.

    October 1, 2011at6:33 am Reply
  • bboy2able

    Mr. pearlman I know an auto biography is supposed to depict the truth and as a journalist you feel is your duty to do so. But what about the positive things they can also be the truth as well. Yes Walter Payton is a man loved and respected by many but he is a man, what person do you know in life that was perfect and did not have flaws or struggles. How would you want to be remembered in life Mr. pearlman through your flaws and struggles or your accomplishments and positive things sometimes it is a choice to decide between doing the right thing and doing what is right. we hear enough negative things in the world today through news and other sources but very few positives. Would this be boring, maybe but what if your kids look up to Walter Payton for inspiration would you want that to be the image left with them in life or give them something to strive for in achievement. Thank you for taking the time to read this Mr. pearlman and I hope you understand and I wish you the best.

    October 1, 2011at8:06 am Reply
    • Byron

      Auto biography?

      Pearlman didn’t write about a car.

      You do know what an autobiography is, right?

      October 3, 2011at2:46 pm Reply
  • Tony

    they say insects will inherit the Earth, to me Pearlman is an insect!

    I hope during a possible book signing that the anger you have created by attacking such a beloved sports figure comes back to you ten fold.

    I would love to know how Walter Payton’s family feels about this book, if they gave %100 support then I could swallow some of what has been written. But reading some of these posts it appears there not happy and with good reason.

    I guess you chose Walter because he is so beloved and you knew the controversy it would create. Mike Ditka was spot on calling you gutless, whatever is written on paper will never change my respect for Mr. Payton as a football player and as a person.

    good luck on the sale of your book, personally I plan to buy it and then burn it.

    October 1, 2011at11:26 am Reply
  • Donnie

    You are a coward. I personal will not purchase your book, because you like to feed upon the negative on people’s lives. If you had any balls, you would’ve released the book when he was alive. Not when he was dead and unable to defend himself. You will do anything to make a buck. Spineless, greedy, and so-on

    October 1, 2011at12:16 pm Reply
  • Lori

    I understand the honesty concept of journalism, however I’m always perplexed why biographers feel they have the right to expose private matters about someone’s life in print without permission. We all have things in our lives we aren’t especially proud of. I have to ask Jeff how you would feel if someone wrote a biography on your life – even the most intimate details that you would prefer to keep private.

    October 1, 2011at12:22 pm Reply
  • Ted W

    Hello Jeff

    How can you defend your book as the truth. Jeff this book was written for your personal gain – both recognition and money for you. End of story. Have you considered donating proceeds to a good cause. If not, then you are the problem.

    October 1, 2011at2:50 pm Reply
  • Brian Edwards

    Walter the Great #34 was an still is my hero. What this book says means nothing to me. I played sports as well as my 2 boys and all of us have worn the #34 in everyone of them. I will not let this weazel change what his memory is to me and my boys. Do not buy the book let the writer and publisher lose their butts on it.

    October 1, 2011at2:59 pm Reply
  • Pasadena Dave

    “The defense of journalism” is analagous with polishing a turd. Kudos all you journalism graduates slaving away for 30K and waiting for the next famous dead guy to write-up to make a quick buck. “Just read my book” shine that turd Jeffie… !!

    October 1, 2011at3:07 pm Reply
  • jimberk

    As a fellow historian, I plan to borrow your book to carefully review the footnotes that support your alleged “truth”. This portait you paint as the alleged “truth” does not fit with the person many of us in Chicago knew. It seems to be more a portrait imagined by a guy who got a big fat advance to sling unsubstantiated dirt and sell books off the dead body of a Chicago icon. You have officially become in the sports world, what Geoffery Giulliano is in the world of music history. Sad.

    October 1, 2011at3:12 pm Reply
  • Austin

    The personal attacks on Jeff are ignorant and unfounded. The vitriolic, emotional responses to a person writing an honest biography is beyond my comprehension. I’ve read dozens of biographies of deceased celebrities, politicians, musicians and athletes that paint honest, painful, but ulimately truthful accounts of the person. Never have I seen such a mindless reaction to the depiction of honesty. It appears that sports in this nation has become a warped, anti-intellectual existence. T

    October 1, 2011at3:33 pm Reply
    • Red

      You are making an assumption that the book is an honest biography. We may never know for sure, but there are a some red flags here that indicate that it more than likely not 100% honest.

      1) Payton’s family has released a statement stating that not all portions of what’s been released so far from the book are true.

      2) The scandalous allegations provided in the excerpt are mostly attributed to Payton’s former agent with whom he refused to associate at the end of his life, his former personal assistant, who was convicted of stealing money from him, and anonymous sources. Not exactly reliable sources, IMHO.

      3) The marketing of the book has all been handled in a very sleazy manner, first with SI focusing only on the most sensational aspects for their excerpt, followed by Pearlman writing an opinion piece for the Chicago Tribune where he chose to release additional scandalous allegations that were not included in the original excerpt. Odd choice by Pearlman to do so when he claims to love Payton and to be motivated by an attempt to portray the full, balanced picture. The balance is so far non-existent.

      4) Pearlman has a history of getting the facts wrong in his books (see NY Times article about Brian Cashman’s portrayal in the Roger Clemens book).

      Not saying the book is completely dishonest, just suggesting that your assumption that the book is completely honest is likely wrong.

      October 3, 2011at8:25 am Reply
  • Austin

    Strange that in the same week as we witness these mindless attacks on Jeff, we are reminded of the unfair and destructive treatment of Steve Bartman. Chicago sports fans have nothing to talk about when it comes to fairness and integrity.

    October 1, 2011at3:42 pm Reply
    • Red

      If you think the concerns expressed here are mindless, you’ve obviously either not read them in any detail, have not attempted to comprehend the points you disagree with or are Jeff’s wife/father/mother/BFF. Leaving aside the few ubiquitous trolls, most of the posts here have been well-reasoned, on both sides. Hardly mindless.

      October 3, 2011at8:30 am Reply
  • Diane

    The biggest problem with this biography is that the man himself does not get to verify or explain what people are assuming are the truths about his life. Lets face it, as time goes on memories take a life of their own… you can have a group of people see the same event and they will all remember it a different way. Who is to say what was truly happening in his life. Memories are faulty, as many studies have shown. What you wrote about this man appears to be a tabloid article that is going for the “bucks”. How can you get a complete look at someone’s life without speaking to his family, the coach or people closest to him? But even then, without getting the insight of the man, himself, nobody can truly know what was going through his mind.

    How would you like a casual acquaintance decide to write a biography on your life, only speaking with a handful of people who are relying on memories of what they “think” your motivation was, or their own interpretation of events in your life? Biographies can be an insightful look into a person’s life, but does it have to be at the price of tarnishing a man’s reputation, when there are so few heroes left in this tabloid hungry world? You hurt so many people with this book… his family, his friends, and old and young fans alike. Even if any of these “demons” he was supposedly fighting are true, is it anyone’s business? How about sharing your demons with the world, without the chance to explain yourself or what was going on in your life or mind at the time. Try putting yourself in his kid’s shoes. How would you feel if someone you cared about had a book like this written about them, without a chance to explain themselves or refute what people are saying? Try taking that microscope you are using to examine and judge someone’s life and look at your own motivation for this piece of work. You might not like what you see.

    October 1, 2011at5:15 pm Reply
  • Randy Comer

    One of Walters best friends was a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy with me and we were stationed in Pearl Harbor back in the 90’s. Walter would come to Hawaii and stay with his friend and he always had a girl with him that wasn’t his wife. I didn’t like it and probably judged him at the time but people make mistakes. I’m sure at some point, he regretted his actions. What would be interesting would be the story of Mrs. Payton and how she handled the pain during her marriage. She certainly knew who Walter was and what he was doing yet stayed married. It would also be interesting to hear the girlfriends view of how she felt sitting there at the HOF induction while Walter thanked his family. Those stories would be more interesting than another superstar fooling around on his wife… Last time I hear.. that was pretty common

    October 1, 2011at6:02 pm Reply
    • Red

      And none of the general public’s business, as long as the superstar is not promoting himself as a shining moral example for others to follow.

      Knowing about Ted Haggerty’s drug abuse and sexual pecadillos furthers the public good. Knowing about Payton’s does not.

      October 3, 2011at8:33 am Reply
  • Larry

    I just wanted to let you know now instead of blindsiding you like you did walter, I am taking any donations to investigate your background and find something , anything that will let YOUR fans, friends, and family know that this truely is not a perfect world. There are things in everyones lives that they want to be kept private but make no mistake, everyone has secrets. Some can make someones day because they didn’t get enough attention from mommy and daddy. But some secrets can really put a persons life in a light as a true “car wreck”. Have a nice day and oh yeah…,. Jesus loves you even though everyone else hates you

    October 1, 2011at6:05 pm Reply
  • Kevin Wayne Brazil

    I myself having grown up in a family of football players and fans in the late 70’s and 80’s know of the man referred to as “Sweetness”. Having watched and cheered this remarkable athlete and human being on during my childhood even though my household was a strong Pittsburg Steeler home. I bought the book because of my interst in the man that I use to watch not only run passes defenders, but also run over defenders.

    Honestly people, I hated this book after coming to the conclusion that it is nothing more than a tattle tell (tale) money maker tabloid shock and stock the shelves weak and cowardly attempt at sports journalism!

    I pitty the author for his worthless de-humanizing waste of print spent dragging a hall of fame sports legend back through the dirt and mud years after his body and soul were laid to rest for eternity. May God Bless Mr. Payton’s soul…

    Here is a premis for a book the author should write next.
    it would be right up his alley and he could call it: The Truth About (Author) He can write about all the skeletons in his closet and re-live his lowest moments of life for all to judge. He tell us of his bad decisions and errors in judgement. We could read of all his failures and losses. Wouldn’t that help sell his story as well? He could be just as truthful as he wanted and even give us his insight on why, something Walter has no way of doing. Let me know when it goes on sale, I would love to have mine personally signed in person. Maybe even a big book signing event. You could charge admission Jeff. Cha ching, just keep the money machine running my friend. Why not?

    This book was a big dissapointment, can I get a refund? Maybe sell the one I have? For sale: Used book ”
    sweetness “The enigmatic life of Walter Payton” $0.01 (It’s not worth the 2 Cents that were given…

    Kevin Wayne Brazil

    October 1, 2011at6:26 pm Reply
    • Red

      The book isn’t going to be released until Tuesday, October 4th. Would love to know how you bought a copy in advance?

      Please, people. I’m as disgusted by what I’ve learned about and read of this book as anyone, but let’s keep things real.

      October 3, 2011at8:38 am Reply
  • ted747

    Jeff Pearlman wants everyone to think he came upon his subject matter for Walter Payton, not because he knew there was dirt there which were going to bring publicity and help him sell books, but because he was intrigued by the mysterious Payton. And then the book turned into an account of embarrassing personal and secret details of Payton’s life organically, not because he sought out those types of personal details.

    If you believe that, then you are either friends or family of Pearlman’s or you are naive. Look at the sublect matter for his previous books: 1. the late ’90’s Dallas Cowboys 2. the 1986 New York Mest 3. Barry Bonds 4. Roger Clemens. Each subject is one he knew very well going into research about, was one that he had very strong preconcieved notions about and ones he knew there was boundless supplies of gossipy type of details about. Now with the Payton book he had turned over a new leaf, was no longer the Kitty Kelley of sports books but was now approaching a subject matter because he was intrigued, not titilated by what he could find out? He is four for four with gossip books. If it looks like a duck and quacks like one, it’s another biography which will embarrass it’s subject matter by Jeff-Kitty-Pearlman.

    I had never heard of Pearlman unti two days ago. I did a five minute googls search and learned very quickly what type of writer Pearlman is and how he views the world. A sampling of Pearlman’s blog posts:

    1. The sports fans I hate
    2. Why I hate the GOP
    3. Why I hate Christmas (by his mother. Now we know how he achieved his sunny personality)
    4. Clemens sucks
    5. The Voice…sucks very,very,very badly
    6. Miniature golf sucks
    7. Dell sucks
    8. Barry Bonds is evil incarnate
    And the biggest laugh: 9. Fame sucks (Who needs it? I certainly don’t). The fact that Kitty Pearlman doesn’t see the irony of decrying fame while writing these types of bios and blogging about his thoughts on practically any subject that crosses through his brain -including his account of blood in his stool means that Pearlman is incapable of self examination but just loves to examine others.

    Kitty Pearlman also has a reputation for not fact checking. He writes a made up quote by Yankees President, Brian Cashman, which he later had to retract. The issue isn’t that Kitty Pearlman made a mistake, but that he never bothered to ask Cashman if he had said it.

    Mr. Pearlman: Please stop pretending that you’re Jack Anderson or Mike Royko or Edward R. Murrow. Admit who you are. You are Kitty Pearlman. Wear and wear it proud because that is who you are however much you may howl in protest.

    October 1, 2011at6:36 pm Reply
  • Bud Geermaine

    Did you ever spend an hour, a day or more with the man you are trying to biograph? Well I did!! Did you ever try to run “the hill” with him? Well I did! Did you talk to his team mate’s about how he treated them? I sisncerely dought it!
    Did you ask Ove Olsson about his love for speed? I really don’t think so! Did you know that his friends called him Walt even when “Sweetness” was painted on his racing helmet? I dought that too!
    Walter was a loving and caring man that I am proud to say was a friend of mine. He would give his time for just about any cause that he could attend.
    He loved his wife and family.
    God was always in his life.
    Then came his other true loves, football and going fast whether it be motorcycles or formula race cars; He appreciated every person involved.
    To say bad things about a man of his caliber, I hope will be a disgrace to you!!

    October 1, 2011at6:50 pm Reply
  • Kevin

    Walter Payton, the man, was never a hero. Payton the football player was. You’re bringing a man’s personal life to the fore when the only reason anyone cared about him was his professional accomplishments. Yes everyone has flaws. Payton’s flaws shouldn’t be waved in front of the world so you can profit from them in the name of telling the whole story when all you’re doing is covering a part of his life that nobody cares about.

    October 1, 2011at7:15 pm Reply
  • Jeremy

    You are a tool

    October 1, 2011at8:43 pm Reply
  • jay mcinnis

    You are filth. You know the truth? Go to hell scum! This is why the media is hated

    October 1, 2011at11:07 pm Reply
  • jason

    WTF does Rosh Hashanah have to do with you being a muckraker?

    October 1, 2011at11:50 pm Reply
    • jason

      Also if you are serious about people reading the book first before judging you wouldn’t have released the most salacious parts of the book as excerpts on SI and will release the WHOLE book for free online or at least other chapters of his life. Otherwise, your detractors are right you’re just trying to make a dime off of someone else’s hard work. But hey, anyway to make a dime right? I have a feeling you’d be right at home with Fox News.

      October 2, 2011at12:07 am Reply
  • Teri

    I will not be purchasing your book, but I will be very interested to find out how many names you list of Walters’ female companions. Being the accredited journalist you claim to be I am sure you would not leave out such details. After all, you said you wrote this to book to give the full picture right? You must have spoken with these women in your 600+ personal interviews, right? If for some reason you chose not to list complete names of these opportunistic women we might assume this is fiction.

    I am not so naive about professional athletes and their lack of fidelity but I do believe that there are a lot of women who prostitute themselves for the celerity or a meal-ticket regardless of who they hurt. Now I would PAY to see those names!

    Walter’s family-even his unknown son-deserve more respect than you have afforded them. You are a coward Mr. Pearlman.

    October 1, 2011at11:51 pm Reply
  • Teri

    I did. And it still sucks. Loons?mmmmmm.
    Guess that’s why you are a refugee.

    October 1, 2011at11:56 pm Reply
  • chicagowoman

    Wow..Talk about a weird day. I thought this was buried in the past. I heard this on the radio during a cab ride and felt a rush of old memories, that arent so comfotable!! I am not shocked at anything other than the time it took for this to get into a book, or otherwise made public. Although, I think most in Chicago already knew. I am sad for the kids and family having this reopen old wounds.
    I had a regular on-going affair with Walt from spring ’89 through end of 1990. He picked me out at 34’s when I was 19.
    We saw each other regularly and he was not as discreet as one would expect. Despite it all, it was clear to me that he cared a lot about his family, especially the kids. And even though he was flawed in being unfaithful, he was a really a genuinely nice guy and cared about the image he portrayed to children as a role model.
    I never saw him use drugs, or even appear high, but at times he did seem sad and lonely.
    My most shocking memory, in hindsight, is our joint carelessness.
    Walt was an awesome man, with many talents and definitely human flaws. I hope your book shows the full picture without focusing on the negative, we are all just human afterall.
    And, I agree with another poster, that it would be great if some proceeds could be donated to a charitable cause.

    I did not interview for this book, or in any way contribute, FYI. I am sure I am only one of many of his girls.

    October 2, 2011at12:26 am Reply
  • My Hero

    Dear Mr. Pearlman,

    What’s your point? Some things are better left unsaid. Do you tell your kids Santa doesn’t exist or the tooth fairy is not real! When your writing has an adverse affect whether your intent was there or not does it make it worth writing? Discretion would be the better part of valor. You obviously have very little valor or values to smear a man after he has already met his Maker. I hope your book flops! Many books have already been written about athletes and their plights! Find something better to dedicate your time you are not writer.. you are a yellow journalist!

    October 2, 2011at1:38 am Reply
  • Jeff Thomas

    Walter Payton is a celebrity and we all know that they are fair game for writers. I just have to say that I had the opportunity to meet Walter at a 5K fun run and he was as great a person as I imagined him to be. He did not hold himself higher than anyone else, and he came up to me. I was just standing on the side and he approached me and struck up a conversation. We know that everyone has skeletons in their closet, but that is why they are in there; so others don’t see them. The people he allowed in his life that betrayed him are the ones that should be blamed. He trusted these people with the most vulnerable pieces of his life and they ignored their responsibility of confidentiality. The author is just doing his job (in a sleazy, slimy way)! I won’t read the book and knowing that Walter wasn’t perfect doesn’t change my high opinion of him. He did more good for people then his minor indiscretions. Hopefully people will choose to remember him as a hero! I know I always will.

    October 2, 2011at3:06 am Reply
  • Walter Payton's GREATNESS Lives on the Field!

    Mr. Pearlman, I can see that you are a somewhat tenacious journalist (judging from your previous works on Clemens and the Yankees), but I have to think the title and premise of your book — “The Enigmatic Life of Walter Paytons” — fails at its most basic levels: That there was some kind of “mystery” about Walter Payton and we Bears fans (and other NFL fans) didn’t understand something about his personality, family background and other motivations?

    Walter Payton never falsely advertised himself as a “paragon of virtue,” but he also was NOT a controversial, polarizing tabloid figure ala O.J. Simpson, Rae Carruth or any of the steroid-taking liars (Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire) or a serial LYING gambler on baseball games (including on his own team) like Pete Rose. Now, if you want to write a book that is WITHIN A FEW YEARS of these scumbags doing something like that, I don’t have a problem with it, even if it might be something I already know and don’t care to read about in a pulp novel.

    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-field — a man with genuine heart (the good and the bad, even if we didn’t care to 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 25 to 30 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 journalist looking to dredge up a true “man’s” life 12 years after his passing (and with your claimed 648 interview subjects going on ad infinitum about what made Walter tick), 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, trivialized and thoroughly dissected chronicle of this man’s alleged personal failings, which he has common with 98% of the people on this planet (maybe the other 2% being the mass murderers, steroid/HGH cheaters, etc.). You shed nothing new or remotely interesting in this “tell-all” portrait, at least in my humble opinion. But I know there will still be readers or, dare I say, voyeurs who will want to buy your book to see if Walter Payton had as many warts as the rest of us commoners out there — it’s the sad reality of triviality and banality of celebrity-style journalism these days. Rest In Peace, Sweetness!

    October 2, 2011at7:17 am Reply
    • 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

      Believe me, there is NOTHING at all “enigmatic” about Walter Payton’s life (as the lame title of your 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!!

      October 2, 2011at7:31 am Reply
  • Jerry

    Reading and hearing reactions to this is disappointing to say the least. I thought people were smart enough to know what a biography is. It really does just come down to that, it’s that simple. Know what a biography is.

    This book may not be for everyone, it’s not for me simply because even though I’m a sports fan (and yes from Chicago so a Bears fan as well) I don’t really enjoy reading sports books. I get enough of it from watching it. But I do enjoy biographies. So hearing all this outrage, especially here in Chicago over this, it’s just been overwhelming. I’ve never heard a biography so vehemently questioned like this before.

    These people who get so emotionally caught up in this, they have to understand, a GOOD, worthwhile (emphasis on “good” and “worthwhile) biography doesn’t actively try to make you feel good, if it happens, it’s because the facts of that person’s life allows for it in telling the story. A good biography doesn’t try to focus on more positive aspects than negative aspects and vice versa, it focuses on what’s there in the person’s life. And with Walter it’s more good than “bad”.

    I don’t see struggling with a beaten up, cancer ridden body and taking drugs to combat it as “bad”. Like it takes away anything he did. But newspaper headlines describing the book will go with the negativity behind words “drug addict”. That’s where people’s anger should be directed, the media’s spinning of information. But that’s getting a little off topic.

    Mike Ditka’s reaction to this is baffling to me. I found out he was actually interviewed for this book and my confusion doubled. Mike Ditka, say what you want about him, but he’s dedicated substantial effort to improving and trying to help other old, retired, battered NFL players who need medical assistance to get it from the NFL for their services to making that league what it is today. He’s done a lot of good work in that.

    So to see him come out and say he would spit on Jeff Pearlman and that his book is without purpose other than greed is baffling. If anything, this book is of assistance to Ditka’s fight. It tells yet another story of a man who gave everything he had to the game of football and left it broken, battered, depressed, much like many of the players that Ditka stands up for. If anything, this book only shines a bigger light on the problems that the NFL has ignored for decades. I don’t understand how Ditka can’t see that.

    Well, that went longer than I expected, hopefully people will start to understand, this isn’t a hatchet job, it’s not a cheap shot at someone who isn’t around to defend themselves (like we’re in court or something), it’s a biography. And if it helps just one person to further understand the kind of battles players like the great Walter Payton go through even after they leave the football field, then it’s done it’s job.

    October 2, 2011at11:40 am Reply
    • Red

      I think you misunderstand why most people are upset, and don’t insult us by suggesting that we don’t know what a biography is. We all know that a well-written biography will document the positive and the negative of a person’s life. We all (most of us anyway) know that Walter was human, and therefore not perfect, and therefore had has struggles. We knew that before this all started. Many of us have read some of the other dozen or so biographies (and autobiography) that are out there. Some of us witnessed Payton’s “dates” or heard the stories back in the day. It’s also pretty common knowledge that professional athletes struggle with their transition to private life.

      The reason we are outraged over this one is based on the odd timing of it (why another one? many bios have already been written); the negative reputation of the author and the way he’s played fast and loose with the facts in his previous books; and I think most importantly, the way the book has been marketed, with the emphasis solely on the more scandalous aspects. But Pearlman is every bit as responsible for, and a willing participant in that as the “media” (see the opinion piece he wrote for Friday’s Chicago Tribune, where he chose to reveal additional allegations that were not already disclosed in the SI excerpt.) Journalistic integrity does not require sensationalization of the facts, in fact I believe it is quite the opposite.

      I do believe this biography could have been written and marketed in a different, more respectful way (while including 99% of the same content, meaning the “bad” too, but only that which could be actually proven and was relevant), and people would not be nearly as upset.

      To put it another way, if Pearlman’s primary motivation was honestly to write the most comprehensive, truly definitive, biography he could, he would have gained cooperation from the family (who surely are among the people who knew Payton best). He would have written the book in an academic, research-oriented way, double-checking everything he was told, and only relying on the word of people who were willing to be quoted, rather than citing anonymous sources. He would have considered all possible motivations for Payton’s post-football behavior, including the possibility of brain damage from repeated football-induced head trauma (Pearlman told David Haugh from the Tribune that he deliberately left any mention of that out of the book.) And once the book was written, he would have put it out in the world for people to read, marketing it as a new, heavily researched bio of Payton, extolling the new sources or new insights or whatever, but with not one word about the potentially scandalous details. People who were truly interested in Payton the man would purchase the book and learn the good and the ugly. People who could care less would never know.

      But that’s not what he did, did he? No, it is obvious that Pearlman did not have altruistic motivations to help the world better understand Walter Payton. No, he appears to have been motivated by cold hard cash, and increasing his own fame. And the best way to do that was by leading with scandal.

      The other aspect of this that I believe is inflaming a lot of passion here is that there is a very fine line between documenting history and violating a person’s right to privacy. As you say, a “good” biography “focuses on what’s there in the person’s life.” But how much of that life is fair game for the biography, and how much is invasion of privacy? Some people believe that Payton ceased to be a public figure upon his retirement from football, others would say that once a public figure, always a public figure. Personally, I think that fair game for the biography is his life up to the point at which Payton ceased to be a public figure, plus the addition of other publicly known information from his life after that. Struggles growing up that he had to overcome to succeed as he did would be completely relevant, instructional and inspirational to the reader of a biography. His private struggles post-football that he wanted kept private should remain private, even if they would also be instructional. I believe Pearlman crossed the line (as it would appear the majority of the posters in this forum do), but we can agree to disagree.

      But IMHO, the crossing of that line, combined with the use of the scandalous details as the focus for the marketing of the book, means that this is not just a biography, it is also a hatchet job.

      You bring up an interesting point about publicizing the plight of retired football players, but you don’t acknowledge that every player (or player’s family) that has come forward to share their experiences has VOLUNTEERED to do so. There are doubtless other suffering retired players that we are not aware of. Payton and his family had chosen not to publicize his experience, and that choice was taken away from them. Again, hatchet job.

      On a side note, the diagnosis of Payton as being depressed is troubling. I believe the SI excerpt stated that he refused to be evaluated by a medical professional. So it is only speculation by non-medical experts who knew him that he was actually suffering from clinical depression. If he had been diagnosed by a medical provider, that person is barred by federal law (HIPAA) from disclosing that information. I do not bring this discrepancy up to in any way suggest that there is anything shameful associated with suffering from depression. Rather, I bring it up as an example of where the facts don’t quite add up, which brings Pearlman’s integrity into question yet again.

      October 3, 2011at10:03 am Reply
      • Jerry

        Well then I guess we better get to banning a TON of books if we’re to follow your “rules and regulations” of when and how to write a biography. Because there are a TON of them out there that don’t meet that “standard”. I have never seen a biography questioned so much (or really at all) on that basis. It’s kinda mind boggling.

        You can’t control the media using the terms “drug addict” and “cheater” when they say that’s what the book labels Payton, when the fact is that neither of those phrases appear at all in the book. As for CTE, the reason why it wasn’t included was because it would have been entirely speculative in nature to Payton. Could he have had it? A good chance, but we didn’t have the kind of knowledge of it back then to diagnose it as we do today. So I can understand why he wouldn’t put anything that would be more or less completely of his own opinion in the biography.

        Everyone keeps asking why now, why now. Why write it now? The answer is another question: Why wasn’t it written earlier? By people who actually knew Walter? The Bears beat reporters of that time,other local writers, both groups of whom were interviewed for this book. Why didn’t they write it? They would’ve had first hand experience.

        The answer is because of this stupid backlash. Pearlman is an outsider, he has nothing real to fear from this kind of anger, mainly coming from Chicago, but those writers and beat reporters I mentioned? They had everything to lose writing something definitive like this about Payton. Their careers would be in jeopardy.

        I mean, look at what’s happened. People are ridiculously up in arms over a small, media sensationalized excerpt from a 400+ page book and are judging it and the author on those grounds. It’s embarrassing behavior. I thought we were smarter than that.

        October 3, 2011at10:47 am Reply
  • Stephen Sonnenfeld

    Hi Jeff,

    I look forward to reading your book and would seriously like to take you up on your lunch offer. I’m 50, live in Scarsdale, NY and am a marketing executive at Thomson Reuters.

    Why would I like to have lunch with you? Emotionally, I’d like to be in close enough physical proximity to kick your ass, but I’m willing to wait until we finish eating, and discussing your book, to determine if that is necessary.

    I grew up in Chicago, a huge sports fan and an all encompassing Bear fan. I cried when the Bears won the Super Bowl. I still love the Bears but now enjoy sports in their proper context. That said, the one athlete that still remains fixed in my heart is Walter Payton. I watched virtually every game that Walter ever played. I don’t really regard athletes in the hero realm, but Walter was my hero.

    As I said, I look forward to reading your book. Objectively. But I go into it wondering what journalistic or cultural value it’s contributing. This is what I’d like to talk to you about. Why did you decide to write a biography of Walter? I find it hard to believe that you didn’t embark on this project without knowing that you’d have enough titillating material to juice up attention and sales. Without this aspect, would be on the Cover of SI? Without this “human” side of Walter’s life, would it really be a commercially viable biography outside of Chicago and the wider sphere of Bear Nation? The simple answer is no. Which is why I question the authenticity of your defense and your overall motives.

    I do hope to hear back from you and even more to actually meeting you in the future.

    October 2, 2011at12:32 pm Reply
  • Ward

    Lucky man that you don’t live on the Southside of Chicago… Ditka would be the last thing you’d need to worry about.

    October 2, 2011at5:50 pm Reply
  • Bart Tack

    Hey Jeff, I am also the guy that had the poster of Walter on the wall of his boyhood bedroom! I will never forget every Sunday watching the bears with my father. I came of age with Walter Payton. I was 12 his rookie season. I endured the lame years along with Walter albeit his beatings were physical mine were mental.
    Listened to your interview on the Score radio 670 Chicago and was very impressed with your character. I seemed to agree with every point you made. What kind of biographer would you be if you were to pick and choose the items you put in the book. I firmly believe you have to put everything in the book that has been substantiated or authenicated. I want my favorite player in a total package. This book won’t make me think less of Walter but I will love him more. To realize that we are all more the same than different is a good thing! Your thoroughness and integrity are two things I do give you props. A job well done Jeff! If you ever need an investigator for another project by all means give me a call!
    Thanks for writing this,
    Bart Tack

    October 2, 2011at9:52 pm Reply
  • Sportswriting Refugee

    Some of the funniest posts on this thread are the ones that wonder how Jeff would feel if people wrote about his personal life and demons. Us regular readers of Jeff’s blog knows that he REGULARLY writes about his personal life, his personal failings, his losses as well as his victories. He’s about as candid a journalist as I’ve ever read! So my guess is that his answer would be: “Have at it.”

    October 3, 2011at12:55 pm Reply
  • Bobby Fetter

    Peter King (not the Long Island congressman) has got your back as well: See Quote of the Week IV

    October 3, 2011at7:15 pm Reply
  • Neil

    Let’s say I write the “definitive” biography of Adolf Hitler. I have 5 pages in the book about how Hilter loved dogs, and about how good a trait that is to have. Most of the rest of the 460 pages are about his killing 6 million Jews. Newsweek excerpts the 5 pages about his loving dogs, ignoring the rest of the book.

    I a matter of hours, everyone who can read and has heard of World War II hates me, and tells asks why in the world I would write such dreck. Then I remember that I can just say “Read the whole book! Hitler was a bad guy! I can’t believe you have all jumped to such conculsions! I think Hilter is an even worse guy than when I started this book 3 years ago!”.

    This is how you’re coming off, Jeff. Too bad you won’t come to Chicago for a book signing, so you can see that there would be 100 people protesting, and 1 Packer fan buying the book. Hope it bombs.

    October 3, 2011at9:04 pm Reply
  • Brad

    Congratulations on your desecration of the memory of a legend. I cried when Walter Payton died. The man has inspired me so much. You have always been a hack. Now, you’re also a scuzzy hack. Enjoy the money you’ll make by tarnishing the legend of another! You’re nothing more than a vampire and money whore.

    October 4, 2011at4:11 am Reply
  • Author

    The idea that Jeff is getting rich off this book is comical. Considering the years and hours he put into this thing, he probably got paid about 1/2 of what most of you make at your jobs.

    Grow up. You’re making Chicago look like a bunch of pussies.

    October 4, 2011at12:21 pm Reply
  • andy

    I keep reading interviews with Jeff where he is shocked that he is being compared to Kitty Kelley (the worst thing a writer who aims to be a respectable biographer can be called). Like Coach Ditka I want to spit on Jeff.

    Walter Payton is the greatest football player of all time. Not because he had the greatest physical gifts. He didn’t. His speed was only average. He wasn’t that big. What Walter had that no one else who has ever played is the ability to play with 100% effort at all times. He never ran out of bounds. He saved his quarterback hundreds of times with take downs of linebackers and ends who got through the line. His fullbacks with limited ablities always had good yardage averages because of Walter’s lead blocks. He was the best pass receiving running back in the game as he held the record for receptions when he retired. He never dropped a pass. And i mean he never dropped a pass. He was the best passing half back of his generation. When his quarterback threw an interception, more often than not, Walter made the tackle. Walter Payton was what Jeff Pearlman can never be, beautfiful.

    Jeff Pearlman is obviously unaware of who he tangled with. He has done nothing in his writing career but be a tattle tale writer who uses sources who have a grudge. Payton’s agent, Bud Holmes was fired, so Bud gave Jeff dirt. Jeff’s other main source is his assistant, Ginny who was convicted of stealing from Walter and his family.

    I grew up in Chicago in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I lived in a majority Jewish neighborhood, so no one can tell me I don’t know what I am talking about here. It was ten years since Sandy Koufax had been retired, but every Jewish kid I knew revered Koufax and every Jewish family had a Koufax biography is their house. The reason I bring this up is I want Jeff to be honest and answer a question.

    If Jeff had learned that Sandy had cheated on his wife would he have written a biography detailing this and used his mistresses as primary sources as he did with Walter? If he found out that Sandy had taken lots of tylenol and painkillers would have had written that? If Sandy’s disgruntled agent had told Jeff that Sandy told him that he talked of suicide would Jeff had writen that? If Sandy’s girlfriend had told Jeff that Sandy’s wife was a distant mother would Jeff had written that?

    The answer is no, Jeff would not have written that. I have read Jeff’s blogs where he obsesses about Jewish athletes and their greatness. There is zero chance he would write gossip about a Jewish athlete the way he writes repeatedly about African-American and non Jewish white athletes.

    Jeff Pearlman is a bigot. He writes about how he and his mother hate Christmas. He writes about how he wants Tim Tebow to fail because he is an evangelical Chiristian. Jeff Pearlman hates it when athletes show their Chritianity.

    Jeff, if you hate living in a non Jewish majority society so much, why don’t you do us all a favor and move to Israel where you belong, you bigot?


    October 5, 2011at4:53 am Reply
  • Jacob

    Everyone says they want honesty, but everyone lies.

    October 5, 2011at4:44 pm Reply
  • Mike

    If you are so proud of this wonderful book when and where is your Chicago book signing?

    October 10, 2011at7:59 am Reply
  • Wet Fuse

    My problem with this is that Pearlman is a coward. To write this book after his death and bring up personal problems but wanting to use the words of I want to tell the good and bad about this mans life. Then to find out that the 700 people that he interviewed were not the closest of people to this man that was so private. The interview with the son and daughter did not go over well and they shut down the interview because of the questions that he was asking. It is a coward that throws stones from behind a pin and say that he was just doing what he thought was best. He just has to remember this.. these words are from a Great President named Theodore Roosevelt. He depicts people like little Jeffy boy that wrote this book in hopes of making money on a dead man that had done wonderful things for a city.

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

    Jeff reminds me of the guy that would tell me that it is impossible for a man to hide and that if he was in Afghanistan, he would have been able to find Bin Laden or any other active terrorist, but he talks this crap from his couch without ever having been out there walking among the blood and never knowing if this was his last mission that he would every attempt. Jeff you are a coward and no matter how you try to clean it up, the stain will stay with you…



    November 5, 2011at5:42 pm Reply
  • jimbo


    please respond to other nonsense:

    1. did you pay any sources for this book?
    2. did you know that you primary sources (bud adams-his fired agent, ginny-his fired assitant, and his mistresses) for this book had been left out of his will?
    3. did you know that his assistant (your obvious primary source) had been fired for stealing from him?

    you’re not the only one who can investigate, jeff-kitty. if you lie in your answers to these questions, you can be investigated too.

    January 16, 2012at5:44 am Reply
  • dsxcnewk

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    March 30, 2012at2:16 am Reply
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