Plenty of folks aren’t happy with Jeff Pearlman, author of a new Walter Payton biography. The book contends that Payton abused painkillers after retiring from the NFL, had extramarital affairs, and contemplated suicide.
Among the displeased? Former Bears coach Mike Ditka.
So what would Ditka do to Pearlman? “I’d spit on him,” Ditka told NBCChicago. “I have no respect for him. . . .
“Pathetic. Despicable. It serves no purpose.”
Ditka believes that Pearlman, whose other books focused on topics like Barry Bonds and the Cowboys of the 1990s, was motivated by a desire to sell the book. Pearlman believes he is simply telling the truth.
“When we present people as a sort of athletic cliché, and this golden guy who had no flaws whatsoever, I think we do people a disservice,” Pearlman told NBCChicago. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with knowing that a person was flawed. I don’t think anything is wrong with knowing that a guy suffered through severe depression after his playing career was over, after he spent 13 years brutalizing his body . . . and living and dying with football and then it all of a sudden comes to an end and he doesn’t know what to do with his life.”
Regardless, the book is getting plenty of attention based upon allegations that undermine the longstanding image of Walter Payton. And those allegations will make the book controversial, and it will prompt those who loved him to react negatively, regardless of whether the allegations are accurate.