|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 CBSSports.com 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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