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

Since: Apr 7, 2010
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:19 am

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

Kudos for calling out Ditka. He is the biggest phoney around. It cracks me up that some people are complaining about the fact that
since Payton is dead a book should not be written about him.

The best biographies are wrote on dead people. It gives the author the chance to tell the true story. Pearlman seems to be doing that here.

He isn't taking away any of the great exploits of Payton the football player. He actuallt reinforces how great the man was (and he was great). I think he is presenting Payton as a flawed and interesting human being.

Freeman is right. People like Ditka and those who buy into the Payton myth need to grow up.

Since: Sep 5, 2009
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:04 am

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

     Bradinator, kudos to you for a 5-star post.  And vader is right I think it is wrong for Pearlman to come out with this book after Payton has passed on and is unable to defend himself.  I prefer to remember Payton as a great football player who was well liked by teammates, opponents and fans of all NFL teams, not just the Bears.

Since: May 19, 2009
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:51 am

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

They guy spent 2.5 years of his life researching for this book. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to to slander somebody and make some money. He has a real passion for writing and for truth, and for all the people who want to learn the truth about Payton will be happy to read this book. For all the people who want to believe that he was his PR image, stick to childish namecalling and threats.

Since: Jul 12, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 9:29 am

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

MIKE your a complete zero why would you want to be patting Pearlman on the back. Walter payton is dead why would you write a book on half truths
just to make money. I think you and Pearlman must be brothers your view are the same. I agree with Mike spit on him. Payton dead leave his personal life alone.

Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: September 30, 2011 9:06 am

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

Nice "friend", I hope after your death he gets a chance to write about you and expose your kids to whatever he feels like to make a buck. The fact that the Payton family came out and issued a statement condemning the author's use of people with no creditability makes me think it's a piece of tabloid trash. On the subject of Ditka, I remember when he got canned by the Bears and Payton came to his defense, so obviously Payton, while I know he was upset about the SB, didn't hold a grudge and I've always heard Ditka sing Payton's praises. Sounds to me like you have a personal beef with Ditka. I'll not be buying this book. I have no need to know "all about" Walter Payton from a second hand source trying to make a buck. This guy and his sad little cohorts at SI are the exact reason I NEVER read that rag. By the way, won't be reading any more nonsense from Freeman either.

Since: Apr 19, 2008
Posted on: September 30, 2011 8:52 am

The Daily Shoutout: The new Walter Payton bio

So by your argument, Mike, I suppose that we should pat MTV on the back for exploiting teen pregnancies too then?  You're trying to justify one of the biggest problems in American society.  You see, the media is so concerned with having the right to write, report, and take photographs of whatever they want.  However, they seem to have forgotten to think about whether you should.  Do you enjoy your privacy, Mike?  Do you have children that you would like to keep from exploitation?  Do you have secrets and a shady side that you would prefer never sees the light of day?  If you answer in any way other than "yes" to those questions then you're a liar and you're fooling yourself.  Walter Payton was an athlete and in the limelight on and off the field.  The things he did purposely to be in the public eye should be the end of what the public knows about him.  Why is it okay that the media dig into his personal life when you yourself would not want that?  The correct answer is that it is not okay but since a large percentage of America seems to have an infatuation with living vicariously through others then you can try to twist things to justify it.  I find it totally despicable that your "friend", whom is not a true biographer mind you,  decides to write about the man after he has passed away so that he cannot defend himself against the accusations.  Your "friend" is a coward and a joke of a human being.  Put the shoe on the other foot, Mike, and tell me with a straight face that you would approve of someone writing a dirt novel on your personal life.  I guarantee that you wouldn't approve.

The bottom line is this isn't about slandering your friend for tarnishing the legacy of one of the all time great football players.  It's once again about the media deciding that they can exploit what ever they like about a celebrity because it sells to the masses.  What a pity.

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