The names are legendary – from Ditka to Dent to Singletary – but none more so than the great Walter Payton, who dominated his way to the all-time NFL rushing title with both power and grace.
While the exact dates escape me, I also remember his tragic illness, and the outpouring of emotion for such a wonderful human whose life was cut short.
The thing is, like all people, famous people particularly, there is always a deeper complexity.
I am a big fan of author Jeff Perlman ever since I read The Bad Guys Won. I interviewed him for both Boys Will Be Boys and The Rocket That Fell to Earth. When I saw the backlash he was getting for his latest biography, Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, I had to reach out and grab a copy.
What I took from the book is hard to describe. For the most part, I want to dismiss Payton as an egotistical prima donna who thinks the world owes him for being God’s gift to sport. But I can’t fully do that. The reason is you just need to put things in perspective. Were this guy not the one of the greatest athletes who ever lived, we wouldn’t even have the chance to reflect on his enigmatic life.
To his credit, and contrary to what his critics might say, Pearlman is fair. He doesn’t gloss over unsavory topics, nor does he minimize Payton’s greatness both on and off the field. He paints a full picture, and (as he always does) does so in a very entertaining way.
You can read my interview here at 30Nothings.com.