Blog Entry

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

Posted on: September 30, 2011 7:18 am
Edited on: September 30, 2011 8:09 am
 

OPENING HIT: I didn’t know Walter Payton well but I knew him. I apparently didn’t know him well enough. Based on a new book about Payton’s life, few did.

A new biography, The Hero No One Knew, suggests Payton was not the simplistic goody-goody the media often portrayed him to be. He had extra marital affairs, took drugs to dull the pain of a long and brutal NFL career, and contemplated suicide. In other words, Payton was a human being with flaws, not perfect piece of clay built by Michelangelo.

Now, unlike a lot of the immature critics who are wrongly attacking the author, Jeff Pearlman, I’ve read the book. It’s a well reported, factually strong, highly interesting read about one of the most famous figures in NFL history. Full disclosure: I’m a friend of Jeff’s. But I’d say this regardless.

Some of the reaction has been predictable. Mike Ditka, a hothead and occasional buffoon, said he’d spit on Pearlman if he saw him. Nice, Iron Mike. Way to add to the discussion. Besides, it was, after all, Ditka who handed Payton one of Payton’s greatest humiliations when he refused to let Payton score in the Super Bowl XX blowout of New England instead allowing Refrigerator Perry to make a mockery of things. See, when Ditka had his chance to honor Payton, he behaved petulantly, now, years later, he’s got Payton’s back.

I see.

The problem here isn’t Pearlman. The problem is twofold: you and me. Longtime NFL writers like me did a disservice to readers by portraying Payton as an infallible human being when no such thing exists. We didn’t provide a three-dimensional portrait. Pearlman does and he does so not in a tabloid manner – again, read the book – but in a professional, almost elegant way.

You, the reader, are also the issue. You demand that athletes be real, that they step from behind their publicists and carefully crafted images, but when many of them (not all) refuse, you don’t care. You still blindly follow. Some of you are hypocrites.

I want to know what athletes are really like because I like information and what I chose to do with that information is up to me. I now understand what Payton was really like and it doesn’t alter my opinion of him one bit. I still think he was an elite runner. I still think he was an overall good person. I still like him.

Pearlman tells us about all of the outstanding things Payton did as a football player and man but he also shows us the warts. Not only is there nothing wrong with that I’d say it’s necessary.

Let’s be grownups about this and not shrink this discussion into the simplistic nonsense we see all across our culture today. Payton was a highly nuanced man, it turns out, and thus this book is a highly nuanced look at him.

Spit on Pearlman? We should be patting him on the back.

 

 

Category: NFL
Comments

Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: September 30, 2011 5:21 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

Nothing wrong with telling the truth.  It's not about making Payton look bad, it's generating an open, honest discussion about what is really going on in the world of football.  You can hide from the truth all you want, but there is more and more evidence coming out that shows this sport takes a real toll on the human body, not to mention the toll it takes on the mind.  If people want to reamain too cowardly to talk about these things openly, we are doing nothing to help the next generation of players from the same fate.  How does that bennifit anyone?




Since: Sep 21, 2010
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:43 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

"I want to know what athletes are really like because I like information and what I chose to do with that information is up to me. I now understand what Payton was really like and it doesn’t alter my opinion of him one bit. I still think he was an elite runner. I still think he was an overall good person. I still like him."

"Spit on Pearlman? We should be patting him on the back."

Really Mr. Freeman, really?  How can one say they want to know the real person - good or bad - and when the report does nothing but defame and tarnish an individual's character go on to say "I still like him," and then add the author should be patted on the back? Wow!

Here's the thing, Walter Payton was human. He may not have been perfect, and now that he's dead some deadbeat writer is digging in to his grave to find a story to write about, to make money off of. This is pathetic.  I'm sitting here watching a documentary about Reggie White.  Is he next to be written about by Pearlman? Would he try to discredit him in the same way if he were to find a human flaw?

You, Mr. Freeman, as well as Pearlman should have someone out there dig in to your personal lives. Not when you're dead, now when you can get fired. I'm wondering if you, Mr. Freeman, and your friend, Mr. Pearlman, would be the first to cast a stone upon Walter Payton if he were still alive.  You should really look deep into yourselves and your stories and perhaps show a little respect for a man who is dead and did no harm to you or your families. Truth or not, right or wrong, what Walter Payton did in his life did not affect yours or your families' to the point you should disrespect his memory.  You are both hypocrites.





Since: Jan 31, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:31 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

oh im sure payton was in to oxy's and percasets too. dont kid yourself.



Since: Sep 30, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:54 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

The problem here isn’t Pearlman. The problem is twofold: you and me. Longtime NFL writers like me did a disservice to readers by portraying Payton as an infallible human being when no such thing exists. We didn’t provide a three-dimensional portrait. Pearlman does and he does so not in a tabloid manner – again, read the book – but in a professional, almost elegant way.
This statement is half right. Yes, the media and fans are guilty of putting athletes on a heroic and righteous pedestal. But Jeff Pearlman is trying to make money here, it's obvious. Calling a tylonel/vicodin cocktail a drug problem is sensationalizing.

Who here wants to volunteer to write a book about the real Jeff Pearlman? I'm sure you could uncover a nice big pile of dirt. 



Since: Jan 31, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:00 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

i agree with freeman for once. hes right. people in america need to stop being so soft and realize no one in the public limelight is really what they perseve to be. its what the media pertrays and stupid amiercans believe what they see.



Since: Jan 30, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2011 2:49 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

Good comment.



Since: Jan 30, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2011 2:47 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

I hate this. I hate this for sport. I hate this for the family. As a writer I hate this for the all the reasons why almost all the "wrong books" are written, published AND puchased. It's yet a another brief glimpse into our decaying moral fiber and tabloid-measured thinking. I do not hate the author(s). I don't know them. Even if any of this is true. I don't care. Certainly not now. Judge not lest you be judged. This in no way lowers my respect and deep admiration for the athlete. It just hurts my spirit.  




Since: Aug 30, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2011 2:43 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

Also agree with vader. What right do we have to know the secrets that he worked to keep while still alive. I haven't read the book, nor will I, but based on the reactions and statements released from his family, I don't think he would have participated in this book and would not appreciate it's writing now. And where does the book get it's facts and vetting of statements from friends and acquaintances if the family is non-participatory? As far as I know, Payton was never charged with any crimes while alive and made an effort to be an active part of the community that supported him. Thats as much as I want to know about Paytons PRIVATE life unless he wants to divulge more and it's too late to ask him that.



Since: Feb 16, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2011 2:40 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

This whole issue is a two-edged sword: on one side, you have the perception of who and/or what a man was, and on the other, you have information that may not jibe with that perception. Is it necessary to put out that information, or is it in the best interests of everyone to let it stay unknown...?

I'll be honest and say that it really doesn't matter all that much to me what Payton did, or didn't do, in his personal life, because although I admired his style of play and his demeanor, he was never anything more than a football player to me. As he wasn't an idol, there is no loss in not knowing 'more' about him than his exploits on the field. But for those who do/did look up to him, that like so many today saw him as a larger-than-life person based on those same exploits, then this is a way to make that idol a real person.

What is 'necessary' about that...? I'd say that because all too often, idolizing someone actually makes them less of a person, rather than more. Their deeds and actions become less noble, because they are seen as pure and perfect, so what they do is simply an extension of that. But... nobody is just pure and perfect, and pretending that they are does them a disservice, not recognizing that what they did, what they accomplished, may have come at a far greater price than what we want to acknowledge, that they had to overcome themselves as well as others. Payton was a flawed person, as we all are. There are those who do not, can not for whatever reason, recognize that. Whatever he accomplished was against that background, which in my mind, makes the accomplishment greater. I still think of him as the best all-around running back in NFL history, and no book will change that.

An example, not a comparison: the Founding Fathers are absolutely idealized as practically perfect, but they were men just like any others, with weaknesses, foibles, problems, and issues. What they accomplished, even with all that, is even more magnificent than if they were the idealized men that so many see them as; almost incapable of not creating such a document, and such a country.

I guess that the issue, to me, is that is if people with such flaws can achieve such great heights, then it really is inspiring to the rest of us who also have flaws. There is nothing about successful people that others do not have; seeing that it is more hard work and dedication, rather than some inherent 'better quality' about them should be more inspirational than something like rushing yardage or touchdowns.

I may not buy the book (won't, actually), but I won't get anywhere near as worked up about it as some peopele here already are...



Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: September 30, 2011 1:38 pm
 

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

Why is it so essential that we know "what Payton was really like", other than to fill our need for salacious information? What purpose does it serve? Freeman, how does it make you a better person to know the details and flaws of Payton's life?

The quest for truth and information is a fine and lofty ideal, but to hold it up as the sole consideration for every situation is just wrong and can be harmful. This will serve no positive purpose and may end up causing negative ones. Payton has been and continues to be an inspiration to many, and one that can't change other than people like this with a desire to make a buck and people like Freeman with a desire for "information". And in those desires, the only thing that will come of this is that some that may have been inspired by Payton may now no longer be because of the exposure of his "warts", especially kids and young adults that just know the legend and that aren't mature or nuanced enough to make decisions on balance like Freeman implies he is.

No, the initial inclination is right - Pearlman should be derided for writing something, factual or not, that will only serve to make this a slightly worse society for the sole purpose of making money and feeding the need for "information" for people like Freeman to satisfy their need to know all the intimate details of someone's life.


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