Blog Entry

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

Posted on: September 29, 2011 9:37 pm
Former Bears coach Mike Ditka says he would 'spit' on Walter Payton's biographer. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Jeff Pearlman has written a biography on the late, great Walter Payton, but the book is about more than the Bears running back's Hall of Fame career. It includes the warts, too, and that has a lot of people angry after Sports Illustrated this week excerpted part of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton.

Most notably upset, Payton's former coach in Chicago, Mike Ditka.  In an interview with NBC Chicago, Ditka, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, said he would "spit" on Pearlman were he to meet him. "I have no respect for him."

Pearlman wrote that Payton abused pain-killing drugs during his career, contemplated suicide and even had both his wife and his girlfriend sitting near each other at his Hall of Fame induction.

"Pathetic. Despicable. It serves no purpose," Ditka said, adding, "People will buy it."

Pearlman is no stranger to controversy. He's written books about Barry Bonds and the 1986 New York Mets. On Thursday, he responded on his personal blog to the criticism surrounding his latest endeavor.

"The question I ask is: When is it OK to write about a late person’s shortcomings? When is it OK to look back at his life and analyze the highs and lows; ups and downs? Ever? Never? Maybe—as many detractors clearly feel—we’re better off floating on a cloud of ignorance. Maybe the Never Die Easy depiction of Walter Payton’s life—terrific family man, happy go lucky, not especially deep—is the way to go. Is it real? From a certain perspective, sure. But perhaps that’s all sports fans want; to believe their heroes are only heroes, and nothing else matters."

As colleague Josh Katzowitz pointed out Wednesday, the Payton family issued a statment about the biography (via the Chicago Tribune): "Walter, like all of us, wasn't perfect. The challenges he faced were well known to those of us who loved and lived with him. He was a great father to Jarrett and Brittney and held a special place in the football world and the Chicago community. Recent disclosures -- some true, some untrue -- do not change this. I'm saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility."

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 1, 2012 2:55 am

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

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Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: December 25, 2011 5:20 am

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 4, 2011 8:04 pm

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

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Since: Nov 28, 2011
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:29 pm
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Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 23, 2011 9:55 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Feb 9, 2011
Posted on: October 2, 2011 8:01 am

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

, put it that way, you're probably right. I didn't think of that but that is a good point, (the fact that those guys are still alive and can defend themselves).   I guess I just don't like Ditka so that influenced my point of view on this topic. It is pretty bad to target his shortcomings as a selling point for his book years after the fact, especially when Payton can't respond.

Since: Jan 7, 2010
Posted on: October 1, 2011 12:31 am

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

@Vince Vega, 
            I don't know him either, but all he does is go after shortcomings of people. He makes it his goal to find the dirty stuff. I quote him "Why shouldn't people know about the bad part of their fallen heroes? The dark side of them should be surfaced". It's almost as if he is bitter that athletes are making a living off of being great at a sport. That in itself is bullcrap. But, even then, I could put that aside. Write a book about Ray Lewis, Favre, Clemens and Bonds and give the world the full story. Want to know why that is ok? Because they are still alive. They can attest for their actions and not let their families have to deal with it and let some secondary hack source have the final word on what went on. Only Payton can attest and explain what happend and, god rest his soul, hasn't been able to for 12 years. Let the man and his name rest in peace. Go after somebody that can defend themselves and not someone passed on for over a decade. That is why Pearlman is a bastard and a coward. That is why Ditka and many fans of Payton are outraged. Like Da Coach said, he is gutless in his actions in going after Sweetness years after he has died. He should have done this while Payton was alive. If he never had a chance ok, fine. If you want the full bio of Payton ok, but don't go into such explicit detail and make a big deal of his shortcomings. That's what his real objective was and he is nothing but a coward for doing so. Pearlman, grow a sack. I will never read a single piece of literature penned by you. 

Since: Feb 9, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:08 pm

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

, I don't know this author, but I do know that Walter Payton was a great, great football player. But he was still a man, like the rest of us, has his great qualities and not so great, just like all people. Just because old man Ditka was friends with Walter doesn;t mean that nothing critical can ever be said of him or his friends. Ditka was on Dumb and Dumber in the morning the other day, criticizing D-Hall for saying he'd go after Tony Romo's ribs. The great Ditka proclaimed that guys in his day would never, ever do such a thing.....right.   &
nbsp;     Is it OK to criticize Ditka? What if he became coach of the Ravens and traded away a whole draft to move up and pick a RB. Haha, worst trade in the history of the NFL. When the book on Bert Favre comes out, will you hate on that author, better yet, the book on Ray Lewis. That should be a trip.  Oh, by the way,  J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS! Woo-hoo!


Since: Mar 25, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:26 pm

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

If I'm interested enough in a athlete/celebrity's life to read a book about them, I want to read about the good the bad and the ugly. Ditka's comments serve to give the author (and the book) more publicity. I'm looking forward to reading the book, I hope Ditka doesn't spit in my face.

Since: Jun 10, 2010
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:12 pm

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

I like that Ditka is standing up for his own. Not only the right thing to do, but it’s gotta sting when some opportunistic ghoul seeing dollar signs more or less whips it out and whizzes on the reputation of a man who not only Ditka had a personal relationship with but a man who can’t speak up for himself. Who the F#&k is jeff pearlman? Some tabloidesque a-hole making a name for himself  smearing a name with marketable value. No one worth a damn gives a curious whim towards that coward other than the wretched family that spawned him and the fellow parasites that he skulks around with. I can only wish the worst imaginable for such a slimebag. But that’s all really a wish is isn’t it?   

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