Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

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The first definitive biography of Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton.

At five feet ten inches tall, running back Walter Peyton was not the largest player in the NFL, but he developed a larger-than-life reputation for his strength, speed, and grit. Nicknamed "Sweetness" during his college football days, he became the NFL's all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards, capturing the hearts of fans in his adopted Chicago.

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Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

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Overview

The first definitive biography of Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton.

At five feet ten inches tall, running back Walter Peyton was not the largest player in the NFL, but he developed a larger-than-life reputation for his strength, speed, and grit. Nicknamed "Sweetness" during his college football days, he became the NFL's all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards, capturing the hearts of fans in his adopted Chicago.

Crafted from interviews with more than 700 sources, acclaimed sportswriter Jeff Pearlman has produced the first definitive biography of Payton. Sweetness at last brings fans a detailed, scrupulously researched, all-encompassing account of the legend's rise to greatness. From Payton's childhood in segregated Mississippi, where he ended a racial war by becoming the star of his integrated high school's football team, to his college years and his twelve-year NFL career, Sweetness brims with stories of all-American heroism, and covers Payton's life off the field as well. Set against the backdrop of the tragic illness that cut his life short at just forty- six years of age, this is a stirring tribute to a singular icon and the lasting legacy he made.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Walter Payton (1954-1999) is remembered as the record-setting halfback of the Chicago Bears, but he is also revered as the man who heroically battled a terminal illness that finally brought him. There have been biographies of Payton before, but Jeff Pearlman's Sweetness is the first truly definitive life of this beloved Hall of Famer and man.

Lisa Echenthal

Kirkus Reviews
SI.com and Wall Street Journal writer Pearlman (Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty, 2008, etc.) delivers a definitive biography of one of the NFL's all-time greats. Though some of Walter Payton's (1954–1999) records have been broken since his 1987 retirement, his image as a gridiron hero, and arguably football's greatest-ever running back, has endured. Pearlman's book provides much to enhance that image, and a bit to tarnish it as well. An extraordinarily gifted athlete known for his ferocious stiff-arm, his refusal to run out of bounds and his unparalleled work ethic, Payton was, and is, beloved by football fans. But to those who knew him, even close friends and family, he was an enigma. Praised as the ultimate team player, he would sulk and whine if not given the ball as much as he felt he deserved. After years of carrying mediocre Chicago Bears teams, Payton threw his equipment to the ground in disgust and hid in a closet after finally winning a Super Bowl, when Bears coach Mike Ditka allowed William "Refrigerator" Perry, not Payton, to score a touchdown in the game. Known for going out of his way to befriend marginal players who were certain to be cut, for spending hours with sick children, for knowing the names and backgrounds of every employee, Payton was an absentee father and serial womanizer who provided financial support for, but never met or acknowledged, his illegitimate son. Pearlman at first seems not to recognize the disparity, repeatedly describing Payton as a humble man while recounting anecdotes that indicate otherwise. Eventually the author confronts the puzzling contradictions of his subject's personality, but refrains from psychoanalysis or other attempts to explain them. The section on the infamous 1985 Bears, a team rife with dysfunction everywhere but on the field, is a highlight, as is the description of Payton's senior year in high school, when Mississippi schools were forced to desegregate. The book's devastating conclusion shows the familiar depressing decline of an athlete in retirement and his shocking death from cancer at 45. A highly readable warts-and-all portrait of an athletic giant, but those who prefer their idols unblemished may want to steer clear.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592406531
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Author of the New York Times bestsellers The Bad Guys Won! and Boys Will Be Boys, Jeff Pearlman is a columnist and former senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He lives in New Rochelle, New York.

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Table of Contents

Prologue xiii

Part 1 Columbia

Chapter 1 Bubba 3

Chapter 2 Learning the Game 19

Chapter 3 Black and White 29

Chapter 4 The Emergence 38

Chapter 5 Recruitment 54

Part 2 Jackson

Chapter 6 Jackson State 65

Chapter 7 Soul 82

Chapter 8 Connie 95

Chapter 9 Heisman Hopes 107

Part 3 Chicago

Chapter 10 Going Pro 123

Chapter 11 Birth of Sweetness 140

Chapter 12 Zero Yards 158

Chapter 13 The Wake-Up Call 172

Chapter 14 The Strangest Run 186

Chapter 15 Darkness 207

Chapter 16 The Unbearable Bears 223

Chapter 17 A Rose in a Dandelion Garden 244

Chapter 16 Power 255

Chapter 19 Shuffle 280

Chapter 20 Super Letdown 304

Chapter 21 Aftermath 316

Part 4 Retirement

Chapter 22 Now What? 341

Chapter 23 A Bottomless Void 368

Chapter 24 Depression 376

Part 5 Final

Chapter 25 Sick 393

Chapter 26 The End 409

Chapter 27 Legacy 417

Chapter 28 Afterword 424

Acknowledge 431

Notes 437

Bibliography 467

Index 471

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 30, 2011

    Don't boycott

    I didn't read the book. This is a response to Anonymous, who asked people to boycott a book that has not been released yet.
    The book is a complete look at Walter Payton's life, the good and the bad. Mostly good, but some bad. When a professional writer inks a biography on a person, he or she has to write about everything, not just the good stuff. Continue to stick your head in the sand Anonymous. I actually want to know what happens in life, not ignore it or boycott it.

    9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 6, 2013

    Excellent book: This shows the good, bad and ugly side of Walter

    Excellent book: This shows the good, bad and ugly side of Walter. Overall, it takes you through his whole journey, but shows the man's many flaws along the way. Great read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2012

    Sweet

    Great & interesting book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2011

    Must-Read For Payton Fans

    Nobody was/is a bigger Payton fan than I, and I promise you that Payton fans will have a very tough time digesting these relevations. But the read is well worth it. Why? Aside from showing the dark complexities of the real person, it celebrates the thousands of little interpersonal miracles that he was responsible for while alive that had nothing to do with football. We're all broken on some level, and Payton was no different. The candor this book required was only possible with his passing, because those closest to him (ironically, those he hurt the most) were so fiercely loyal to his memory that they never would have revealed what they did during his lifetime. Read it, and celebrate the whole person. I still love the guy.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 11, 2011

    Bitter/Sweet

    Unlike most of us, Walter Payton was a world class athlete and Hall of Fame football player. Like most of us, Walter had a lot of good in him, some bad and some ugly. Walter Payton was very similar to many of us, he was not a perfect person. I feel this book reflects Walter's life as having a lot more good in it than bad and ugly. Already a fan of Walter Payton the football player before reading the book, I feel I am even more of a fan knowing that Walter touched many lives and many were for the good.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2012

    great read

    showed the good bad and ugly but most good. made me a lot closer with one of the greatest athletes of all time and made me a fan.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 21, 2013

        This is the most outstanding biography  I have ever read I


        This is the most outstanding biography  I have ever read I am such a huge fan of Walter Payton before I read this book I thought I knew  everything about Walter Payton since he is one of my favorite NFL player that I look up to.
    When I read this book I was hooked on instantly  I could not stop reading the book page after page it keep getting interesting even when it had some bad parts of the story it still keep me interested to keep on reading the book. Jeff Pearlman  did a really nice job creating this biography about the one and only Walter payton. After reading  this  book I finally understand who the real Walter Payton was  on and off the field and some of his flaws. But thats apart of life we all have  good and bad sides.
    I would recommend this book to anybody who is a fan of Walter Payton or some is trying to read a sports biography about somebody this would be the book for you. This book really takes you inside of Walter Payton life and after you're done reading the book you would have thought you were really close to Walter Payton.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    Ehhhh

    It doesnt show evreything about his life because this guy barely knew him

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    This book is "sweet" hahahah see what i did there

    Yes

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

    Chey to ryder

    Go to the book hapy third result if u cnt post

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Best book ever

    The book does all the talking

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    250 eyh characters remaining

    3,49620467895675637474689 ffgfggxgdtsfhdigurgg%56%&%$"%55&tcctffctf g g4'% cg g'g%g&fxfxrxrxg"xt&t&g2 f%f&"ejrjurjrrejrjrwerrjrrehh;;8*6ftnrhdddjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjhgvfftijhrurujdjhhnjhbbhhjffjrjjfjrjrjfjdbf gjcbfgfgshfhfrdjedhdjfhe s jff cb c fhkwhgeehrhryrfhhbegdhehetgrheweeytruyrjfjhhfhiijgfgxggsgssgdgdgdgdgdgggscscdgdhfgcgdrhxgddkxjcjghfhfhfhjjghhhhyhyhyhyyhfhhrhtgryrgfydfydwddydgdgegdgdgdfhdhfggjdghehdfhggffggehryryerfrhffhhhfhdhjhsshhffgfhHahsgGgaajjThggFFFFfgGGGGtGGGGGGgYYIgKgKGGGGFa.HGgehgdtqtyyrdfsvxhfbvhfvg ggtrfdtjklnhbgvfgfdsaswfffgerddfdfsfgetdfdddxbdxxdwhjkkjgteteggguhyhhtgeghyyrefghfgchvbhfcxxxxccuuhvgffbgWWrjdyyuusfyryyg yv h duqfryeyuryrru

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2013

    "Sad"ness

    As a Bears fan and Payton fan I enjoyed this book and hated it as well. Still a good book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2013

    Walter peyton 34

    Walter peyton 34 best running back ever

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Rating: 4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent) Review: Having seen Walt

    Rating:
    4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)

    Review:
    Having seen Walter Payton play football in his prime and admiring what he did on the field, I was interested in reading this biography written by a well-known and respected writer for Sports Illustrated. It turns out there was a lot more to the man than the image that was portrayed as the hard-working football player and dedicated Christian and family man.

    The research and detail in this book was very good. Pearlman talked to many of Payton’s teammates in high school and college. The section on Payton’s time at Jackson State was quite impressive in its detail – such as the details of some of the practices endured by the players. When he turns pro with the Chicago Bears, the ups and downs of not only Payton but the entire team is well researched as well. The reader learns why Payton struggled at times because the Bears team was not very good.

    What makes the book even better, however, is Pearlman’s account of Payton’s life off the field, both during his youth and his adulthood. Very often biographies of professional athletes will reveal unknown characteristics about the athlete that most fans did not know existed. This is no exception. The best way to describe this aspect of the book is conflicting. Payton is trying to live the proper Christian life, but has many sessions of infidelity, including fathering a child with someone other than his wife. He is at times portrayed as an egomaniac, but yet will always visit sick children in hospitals when called upon. He is often portrayed as a great team player, yet is shown to be sulking about individual slights, whether real or perceived. The best story of that was during Super Bowl XX, when he was livid that William “Refrigerator” Perry, a defensive lineman, was given the ball to score the last touchdown of that game instead of him.

    This is a well researched, well written biography of the running back who many believe to be the greatest to ever play in the NFL.

    Did I skim?
    No.

    Did I learn something new?
    Yes. The most interesting (or shocking, depending on your viewpoint) was the revelation of Payton’s infidelity and hard-partying lifestyle well after his playing days were over. It is not all that shocking when any athlete lives like that while playing and especially when on the road, but that Payton did this while being portrayed as an ideal family man was quite eye-opening.

    Pace of the book:
    Excellent. The transitions between football and off-the-field portions were smooth and the book was told in chronological order.

    Positives:
    The research and detail are the outstanding aspects of this book, but in addition, I believed the manner in which Pearlman presented topics that could be controversial or troubling, such as Payton’s cheating, the way in which he treated his assistants, or his drug and alcohol use, was done with sensitivity and in a non-judgmental manner.

    Negatives:
    There weren’t any glaring negatives about the book. The closest I could come to one was that at times, the reader could believe that the author is bashing Payton too much on his lifestyle choices, especially concerning the lack of time he spent with his son born out of wedlock. However, once the reader finishes the book and everything is covered, this turns out to be simply another chapter in a complicated life of a complicated man.

    Do I recommend?
    Yes, for any football fan or reader who enjoys biographies.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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