Walter Payton’s brother to release a book about their lives

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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.

34 responses to “Walter Payton’s brother to release a book about their lives

  1. When a person dies a tragic death, they are square with the house… Jeff Pearlman told a story of a man he didn’t know, to sell a book. We are all imperfect, & a book of lies could be told around the world, but I would not write it & think a man should be allowed to R.I.P.

  2. Well, I assume it wasn’t necessarily the book that left a bad taste in his mouth, but the media’s interpretation and reporting of it.

    As in all things these days, it has to be sensationalized. The good is boring, the bad gets reported ad nauseum.

    A world filled with iconoclasts, desperate to tear others down. Pretty much SOP, but when you’re related to the target, I imagine it hurts and you feel compelled to defend/react.

  3. I am questioning eddie payton’s reason for writing this book. Pearlman’s book was not a tell all, I was a biography on his life, whih should include the good with the bad. Not including the bad stuff would have made his book inauthentic.

  4. The issue with Pearlman’s book can be found in the ideal that people simply want their heros to be the perfect image they have always held of them. Pearlman is a journalist. He tells a story. If he’s to uphold his journalistic integrity, he needs to report all portions of a story. Trust me, there is no bigger fan of Walter Payton than myself. Jeff Pearlman is a huge fan himself. Just because Payton has flaws and is actually human (like the rest of us) does not diminish in the least what his stature is for those of us who idolized him growing up. It actually brings him closer to us all. Life is not easy and we’d be doing anyone an injustice to make it seem as though his climb to the top was without any obstacle or mistake. It’s natural to dismiss Pearlman’s book as a compilation of lies with the motive to make more money. It’s just not that.

    Open your eyes people.

  5. so sweetnes had flaws that does not mean I want to know about them. he was hero to bears fans and still is. have no desire to read about his personal life and the book in no way changes my feelings for the guy. if anybody should make money off of his name it should be a family member like his brother. he knew him better than anybody else I would imagine. definantly better than pearlman and his scources did.

  6. I am happy that any brother would feel compelled to stand up for his sibling and present another side or point of view. This does not change any of the facts, or accurate accounts of W. P.’s life as portrayed by Mr. Pearlman, even if Eddie does not like them or feel as though these parts of his brother’s life were not appropriate to divulge. Mr. Payton’s records and accomplishments on the gridiron are written in stone and always will be. The memories and affections of/for his teammates and the public are also there as well. None of that changes the other unfortunate aspects of his life. I wonder if, much to Eddie’s chagrin, his book will actually dredge up the very things he loathes anew, precipitating another run on Pearlmans tome thereby opening up old wounds. I certainly hope he has given this possibility some prior thought.

  7. Pearlman is full of $%t. He would trample on a mans grave just to make MONEY… HOF RUNNING BACK WALTER PAYTON passed away a hero to a lot of people in an out of CHICAGO. His family an the NFL not to mention the fans loved this man an anybody reading that peace of crap book should be ashamed of them self. Rest easy WALTER WE STILL LOVE YOU

  8. I take issue with your personal comments about Jeff Pearlman.

    To be clear, it seems your point of view is that Jeff Pearlman told a story of a man he didn’t know, and that is wrong. You can voice opinions on Jeff Pearlman, a man you don’t know, and that is fair or ok? The fundamental difference is that Pearlman has facts based on lengthy and detailed research, while you have opinion arising from a vacuum.

    You may not like what that research revealed, but those are the facts he uncovered. Is he supposed to ignore them? He only reported on what he discovered and that is the point of good biographies and journalism. He did not write the book to express a viewpoint. He wrote the book because he was interested in the life of Walter Payton, no matter where that story lead him.

  9. hey jameslongstaffe: While it may be that Pearlman may have been unfair to Sweetness and, yes, he should be allowed to R.I.P., books are written every day about people who have passed by people who don’t/didn’t know them.

  10. Actually, parts of Pearlman’s book were a scandalous trashing of Payton. No mention of the fact that Pearlman’s book was written first and foremost to capitalize on the untimely death of a football legend?

  11. “I mean, you’re trying to make money off the dead, and I found that utterly disgusting. I guess for my own edification,”
    I suppose Eddie Payton will be donating the proceeds from HIS book to charity, yeah right!!

  12. Since Eddie finds it disgusting that pearlman made a profit off the dead, I would expect Eddie to send all profits to a charity to save him from being disgusted with himself.

  13. If you don’t think that Eddie stands to make a fortune off of his book,and that he didn’t write it at least in part for that financial gain, you are living in a fantasy world.

  14. I’m not sure why Eddie Payton needs to be criticized. He’s defending his brother the best way he knows, by sharing memories. I’m not sure how many people would not feel the need to do what he’s doing It’s easy to look at it from the outside and say that Pearlman’s book wasn’t that awful to Payton’s legacy, but we’re not his family, we don’t know how it feels. So if his family wants to react than so be it, I don’t believe it’s worthy of criticism.

  15. Perlman’s book is great.
    He does an amazing job writing about Walter’s childhood through his times with the Bears.
    Walter seemed like a guy who didn’t know what to do with his life once he retired.

  16. It’s important to note, that Pearlman alleged that Payton had misused pain medication. Not illegal drugs as is implied by this article.
    The bottom line with the pearlman book is that he allowed SI to print the most vile parts of it in order to increase sales. That’s a choice he made, for money, and he and his defenders need to live with the consequences.
    In my book pearlman is trash.

  17. 1. First of all, when a person dies, they are not automatically “square with the house”. Jeffrey Dahmer anyone?
    2. If all writers had to personally know the subjects of their books, the public would miss out on sme great biographies and other novels.
    3. Knowing that we are all imperfect should make a book about Walter Payton’s faults even easier for you to accept.
    4. I heard that Jeff Pearlman spent several years of his life researching the life of WP to make sure he got it right.
    5. WP is resting in peace and this book or his brother’s book won’t change that.

  18. “I mean, you’re trying to make money off the dead, and I found that utterly disgusting.” said Eddie, as he stepped into the bank with his advance cheque.

  19. Jeff Pearlman is a great author. His book was thoroughly, exhaustively researched. I would love to see him write a book like this one about any other sports figure, from Brett Favre to Joe Montana. So what if Payton wasn’t perfect? That shouldn’t take away or lessen your memory of the man as a sports figure. Unfortunately, a completely exhaustive investigation of a person like this one is usually only possible when that person is dead, because people do not want to get sued for slander, libel, or otherwise upset said person. I can think of no other sports biographical novel, other than the books written by Jerry Kramer, that I enjoyed more.

  20. The fact that Walter Payton played 13 years in Chicago of all places and came out of it as a beloved hero and role model says as much about the man as anything. Nobody expects anyone to be perfect, but to be able to keep the negativity hidden for that long in such a sensationalistic (media) market really makes me appreciate his legacy that much more. He put as much work and pride into being a role model as he did in being a football player. I feel blessed to have grown up with a sports hero like him. I hope my son has a sports hero even half as positive and decent as Walter Payton.

  21. “I mean, you’re trying to make money off the dead, and I found that utterly disgusting”
    Umm… Isn’t Eddie Payton doing literally the exact the same thing by publishing a book about Walter? By his own definition Eddie is a despicable man.

    Also, by “set the record straight”, can he actually dispute the accuracy of any of the facts in Pearlman’s book, or is he just upset that they were published? If he can’t prove Pearlman’s book wrong, then what exactly is he setting straight? This just seems like a desperate grab for money

  22. jameslongstaffe says: Sep 28, 2012 10:29 PM

    “Jeff Pearlman told a story of a man he didn’t know, to sell a book.”

    Congratulations, you have correctly defined what a biography is.

    “a book of lies could be told around the world”

    Do you have any evidence to back up the claim that Pearlman’s book is a “book of lies”? The entire point of MDS’s post seems to be that while Payton’s family and many Bears fans were upset to find out that their hero was not perfect, the claims in Pearlman’s book are factually accurate. Also, that overall the book is very fair and mostly positive. It seems like what you want is a hagiography, a one-sided account that treats Walter like a saint rather than a real person. Accusing a book of being a lie without any evidence to back up your claim is called slander.

  23. Pearlman is a writer. Of course he wanted to sell books. That’s how he makes a living.
    Walter Payton wanted to score touchdowns and win. That’s how he made his living.
    We are all flawed. See the list in the news on a daily basis. Preachers, athletes, military generals, actors, politicians and sometimes it’s in your own family or even you. Heroes in their dark moments. Not pretty, but very real.
    We still love them.

  24. We’re all broken to some degree, some more than others, some less. When we realize this about ourselves and understand that no one is perfect we can begin to accept the down falls of another human being as our own. People including myself held Walter Payton at such a high level that when these stories came out we didn’t want to believe them. But he was a human being! Based on this information I can still remember Walter Payton the way I want to: As the BEST all around football player I have seen play the game. Knowing he had faults like the rest of us kind of makes it more realistic if you know what I mean.

  25. MDS: I have no ability to judge the accuracy of the book or the associated SI article, although I also have no reason to doubt that the facts Pearlman asserts are true. And unlike jameslongstaffe, I do not believe that dying under tragic circumstances should inure someone against scrutiny of their behavior. (In fact, that position makes no sense at all, as it suggests that a mass murderer should be absolved in the public view if he were to, say, die in a tragic blimp accident.)

    The book version may be favorable, but the SI profile depicts Payton as a serial adulterer and drug abuser, as vindictive against an employee whom he inadvertently shot, and as deeply egotistical. The profile is balanced in presenting Payton as also deeply troubled, well-loved by former teammates and adored by his children, and as someone who loved to laugh. It is also sympathetic in describing his plight.

    But unless the book is wildly different from the profile, it is anything but a “largely favorable” portrait of Walter Payton.

  26. In regards to Pearlman’s book, the question must be asked, why wait until after Walter Payton died to start reporting this story? Surely, the affairs, and drug use would have been able to be found by an investigating reporter while he was alive, so what was their reasoning for not investigating?

    See that is the biggest problem here. I don’t think anyone doubts that Payton was human and who had his faults, but the media sucked up to him in life, helping to create this image of him, only to wait until after he died before reporting on stuff that Payton obviously would have had a response to.

    Maybe Payton would have denied all of the accusations made against him, or maybe he would have given a different explanation… We will never know, because if this story was worth telling, it would have been told before his death.

  27. There is an article on the Chicago Tribune web page where Eddie states that all of the money is going to the Walter Payton Scholarship fund. I guess he have been the golf coach at Jackson state for like 30 years, which is odd, and something that I never would have guessed. Anyway, he says that he has a job, doesn’t need money and is donating it.

  28. @SilentMajority, it wasn’t a story that was being reported, it was a book. Books come out after the person’s death all the time. Pearlman didn’t write a book dedicated to bashing Peyton, he wrote a book about his life, the good and bad.

    Too many of you think that if it isn’t all fluff than there is a motive. Walter was a great person but he was also a person meaning he had his flaws.

  29. I am sure all of us would like a book published after our death, that told of all of our imperfections… how about the Jeff Pearlman book? But nobody would read that book because nobody cares. Someday I hope that I am “lucky” enough to meet Walter Payton, & I hope to be without apology to him, & just happy to be there:) I will tell him that he is a person of great worth to many people, & that we all still love him. Just as I would want to be treated in my own life.

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