Eddie Payton, the former NFL player who is best known as the brother of the great Walter Payton, is releasing a book next week about his brother, saying that he thinks there’s a record that needs to be set straight.
Eddie says that Walter & Me: Standing in the Shadow of Sweetness is an attempt to emphasize the positive about his brother’s life, something Eddie felt was necessary in large part because he wasn’t happy with the biography Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman. Eddie Payton believes that Pearlman tarnished Walter’s legacy, and Eddie wants to rebuild that reputation.
“I mean, you’re trying to make money off the dead, and I found that utterly disgusting. I guess for my own edification, I needed to try to set the record straight,” Eddie Payton told the Chicago Tribune.
If Eddie Payton wants to share memories of his brother, that’s great. But it’s too bad he feels the need to denigrate Pearlman’s book, and his motives, in the process. Pearlman’s biography wasn’t some scandalous trashing of Walter Payton. In fact, it was a largely favorable look at Payton’s life. However, it was also an attempt to paint a complete picture of Payton, and that of course included his flaws — just as a complete picture of any of our lives would include some flaws. So when Pearlman’s reporting turned up incidents of drug use and adultery in Payton’s life, Pearlman wrote about it.
It says something about how beloved Payton is that when Pearlman dared to include those flaws in a largely favorable book, he was denounced by many who simply didn’t want to hear it. In fact, the Chicago Tribune article about Eddie Payton’s book begins by saying, “Many fans of the late Walter Payton were stunned by the depiction of the Bears Hall of Fame running back as a flawed human being in Jeff Pearlman’s controversial book.” Is that really true? Were Payton’s fans really “stunned” to learn that Payton was “a flawed human being”? Aren’t we all flawed human beings?
People who read Eddie Payton’s book will no doubt come away from it thinking Walter was not just a great football player but also a good man. A fair reading of Pearlman’s book — and not just the short excerpt that ran in Sports Illustrated, detailing some of Payton’s post-NFL struggles — will lead readers to the same conclusion.