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Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  711 ratings  ·  88 reviews
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
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Gotham (first published September 29th 2011)
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At one point in this bio, author Jeff Pearlman says Payton cherished the love his fans gave to him but believed it was not real because they did not know the "real" Walter Payton. After getting to know the real Walter Payton through Pearlman's work, I have to say I was shocked at times to see some of the less than heroic behavior of my childhood hero. There are many things I would not have wanted to know as a child. As an adult, however, I am glad to know that Payton was as fallible and as human ...more
It’s because of Texas that I fell in love with Walter Payton. I had one of those crushes that women often have on sports celebrities, but rarely ever admit to. Yes, I dreamed about Sweetness and me often even as (or perhaps because I was) a married woman with three young children. It was 1985 and I lived in Louisville Kentucky, a wonderful place for fantasies.

Except for a break of three years living in Europe, I spent the first half of my life trying to get the h*ll out of Texas. My childhood co
Whenever a biography like this one is released, where the subject is no longer living to dispute the sometimes sordid tales within, it will be immediately dismissed by many as gossip trash. For those of you who did that with this book, without taking the time to read it, you are making a huge mistake. My father is quoted several times in this book. He and Walter were great friends when I was a child in Chicago, and I knew many of these controversial revelations at the time they were occurring.

At the moment I am giving this three stars.

The problem is I don't know how I feel about this book, mostly because I grew up (in Chicago) watching Walter Payton as soon as I was able to comprehend what football was. To me Walter Payton was what football meant as the definition to the actual word. That being said, I didn't go into this book with rose colored glasses on, I knew I was probably going to learn some information that would have been hard to take.

The life of Walter Payton is a very inte
Oct 11, 2011 Todd rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: sports
A good solid history of Walter Payton's life and death. It details his own personal struggles with anxiety, drugs, and depression. It also details the racism and death threats that Payton had to face as a star athlete. Payton is an enigmatic walking ambivalence; a pendulum swinging from compassion to selfishness. Pearlman details Payton's sad decline from cancer as well.

If you are a fan of Football, the Bears, or complex characters, then you should pick up this book. You may find some comfort a
Kin Pier
First book I have read about Payton and thoroughly enjoyed the read. At times I was disgusted and other times near tears as his life unfolded. Appeared to be fair with what Pearlman had to work with--Payton met with him at the end of his life, his son and wife would not speak to him.. Payton's assistants apparently were willing to share their experiences with the man and allowed the reader an insight.
This book was honest and real. Everyone has darkness and secrets, while this book opened my eyes to one of my favorite sports stars, it also made me respect him a bit more because he wasn't perfect. He struggled deeply but it still one of my hero's!
Paul Pessolano
“Sweetness” (The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton) by Jeff Pearlman, published by Gotham Books.

Category – Sports/Biography

Walter Payton was born in segregated rural Mississippi. It is strange that football was really an afterthought. His brother Eddie was the football player, Walter played drums in the band. It was not until his junior year in High School that Walter grabbed a football and was on his way to making sports history.
Many big name colleges did everything to sign Walter but he decided
Tom Gase
Once again Jeff Pearlman delivers a great book, this time on the great running back Walter Payton, who may very well be the best football player of all time, but he was far from perfect as a person. Very, very well researched and a heartbreaking story in that Payton was not ALWAYS the great person I've thought he was in the past. This book brings some things to life that were not always known by fans. Pearlman doesn't really offer his opinion though, he constantly backs up facts with quotes from ...more
Kris Fernandez-everett
i never try to expect too much out of a sports book -- but some proper grammar, an editor with a sense of spelling, and more dispassion would have been welcome... nevertheless, there's nothing in here that deserved excoriation from a content perspective -- as much as my wide-eyed 10 year old self would have hated to learn that my idol on the football field wasn't god reincarnate, my grown-up 37 year old self would have hated it much more if he had been...

walter payton, like many of us, was a co
Jesse Tooper
Reading through the entirety of this book, along with many of the points being disputed by the family, it's hard to tell how accurate all these stories were. Like most contrasting stories, I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
If you haven't read the book, Pearlman paints a picture of a flawed, insecure, somewhat selfish, and womanizing profile of one of the greatest athletes of our generation. With his shining, friendly and caring persona always being portrayed by the media, this is
A better title might have been Sweetness: The Boring Sports Illustrated Version of Walter Payton's Life With An Unbelievably Detailed Focus On Mississippi High School Football, His Coaches' Irrelevant Life Stories, and Other Minutiae.

I love a good biography and I love football and I am a die-hard Chicago Bears fan, so this book should have been right up my alley. It was part what you would expect from a celebrity biography and partly an expose of Payton's shortcomings as a person, partner, pare
Karen & Gerard
I enjoyed Sweetness--The Enigmatic Life Of Walter Payton a lot! It tells the story of the life of Walter Payton aka Sweetness, a football player. I especially liked hearing from all the players he played with and against as well as the details of his life off the field were fantastic and enjoyable. It must have taken a lot of research to write such a book. It seemed he left nothing out! If you are a football fan, I think you will love this book!

(Gerard's review)
I should stop being surprised that biographies reveal pop culture and sports heroes as jerks. My admiration for Michael Jordan was sapped by "The Jordan Rules," and the same thing happened here. It's not that there isn't a lot to like and admire about Payton and it's not that I claim to be above "jerkhood" myself. It's just that Walter was not the "Man of the Year" that I thought he was.
Brian Hull
Spectacular book. This is how all books need to be written...writers take note!!! I still can't believe he was only 45(or actually 46) years old when he died. It was so good. Not only was he the greatest player of his era, he was a truly kind-hearted person too. Yes, he had his faults, but all of us do. I loved reading about his entire, but short-lived, life. I only knew about him as a player, not as a person, so I loved reading about his childhood and about his retirement. It is a shame he made ...more
John Kelley
Nov 17, 2014 John Kelley rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to John by: Johnny Deponai
As a fan of Payton the football player, I was hesitant to read this book, and that was born out in the process. The veneer comes off if you aren't already aware of the complications of Payton the person. I still am in awe of who he was on the field--what he did and how he achieved his legacy. Nobody would mistake his foibles as unique to Payton as a pro or to people in general. I would have liked to relive more of the great athletic moments of his career, but that wasn't Pearlman's main objectiv ...more
Matt Parks
Pearlman expends so much time and effort conjuring Payton's dark side and personal eccentricities that he shortchanges Payton's (possible the greatest all-around football player to ever play the game)singular genius as a player.
I read a review once for a book about the real life Alice in Wonderland, and the reader said that she wished she could unknow the things she now knew about Lewis Carroll. I sort of feel the same now about Walter Payton. I am not a huge football fan, but I sure was in 1985. I even named my teddy bear (which I still have to this day) after Walter. My impression of him is now tainted. That being said, I understand that he was human. He made mistakes and had another side than the one portryed by the ...more
This isn't a bad book. I like the unvarnished view of Walter Payton (who comes off as a big fat jerk, in my opinion) but the beginning of the book is overly long -- there's an extensive section about his high school years, for whatever reason, and the black/white integration of the south is interesting, but feels a bit out of place. If Walter actually did something (besides play pranks and dance and run around with an oblong ball in his hand) then maybe the first part would have felt a little mo ...more
I enjoyed reading a book about Walter Payton, as I only got to see him toward the end of his career when his skills had started to diminish. There has been a lot of hype over the depictions of drug addiction, depression, infidelity, etc. that Pearlman describes in the book. Is it all true? I don't know for sure, but I would guess that much of it is true, considering all the people Pearlman interviewed for his book - and I'm sure they didn't all make up the same stories. Regardless, I don't think ...more
4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)

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 i
Jonathan Lu
Interesting biography of the best player in the greatest football video game ever made - Tecmo Bowl. I can understand the controversy now as it does not quite paint Payton in the kindest light. Of course he was always well renowned for his dedication to community service (and genuinely went out of the way to touch the lives of his fans) and ventures into racing after his football career... but who knew this dude was so self conscious and insecure? And how much he slept around (with a particular ...more
Walter Payton is known by most as the iconic NFL super star that ran the ball for the Chicago Bears but many do not know the struggles he faced early on in his life. This book gives you an elaborate description of Walter's life, from his early high school days in little town Columbus, Mississippi till his last seasons with the Bears. Walter finds out how to overcome his shyness and crawl out of his shell, to not just become arguably one of the greatest running backs the NFL has ever seen but als ...more
Drew Zagorski
Feb 22, 2012 Drew Zagorski rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Kurt Lichte
Shelves: biography
"When God decided to make a football player, He created Walter Payton."

I've been a Bear fan my entire life. I bleed blue and orange. To me, Walter Payton was a football deity. In 1986, my sister, who was in the TV business at the time, called me and told me to get to Soldier Field ASAP. She was filming a commercial with Sweetness as the star. I got there as fast as I could and met the man. Shook his hand - it truly was like grasping a rock. Saw his smile - it was as bright as the summer sun. And
Daniel B
The biography, Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman is completely about Walter Payton’s life from birth to death. Walter Payton lives in a small diverse town in Mississippi. Growing up he never really thought of playing tack football for school he just wanted to play backyard football. He first started to play football for the high school when he was a freshman. It took him a while to learn plays but he was really fast and was fast at getting away from defenders. When ...more

Well written book that gives a good look into the life of Walter Payton from birth to death both inside and outside of football. If you are a fan of football or Payton you will find this an interesting read but know that this book covers not only the good in Walter but also the not so good. Like many high profile people the public image they present doesn't always match who they truly are. That being said this book presents its readers with a true look at the life of Walter without overdoing the
Jason Gillespie
This book was a good read but contained a little too much 'National Enquirer' sensationalism to it. I, of course, grew up 'idolizing' Mr. Payton, so one never likes to see an image tarnished. I fully understand that no one truly knows someone they see from afar and that, like anything, a public persona can be created. That being said, the interesting look at college life at Jackson State and his early years on a terrible series of Bears teams was riveting reading. The manic-depression and contin ...more
Author Jeff Pearlman pulls back the veil on the life of Walter Payton in this captivating biography. NFL fans knew Sweetness as a man of steel, a warrior on Sundays who left it all out on the field. He was also known as a humanitarian and philanthropist. We were all shocked at his death from liver disease at age 46. With this biography, Pearlman reveals that there was much more to Payton than his public persona. Indeed, the previous biographies of the man are estimated, by Pearlman, to be mostly ...more
While I found the story of Payton compelling, the use of no less than four pseudonyms for contributors took a bit of the edge off the content. I'm always disgusted by people who betray trust in their relationships, and it turns out Payton was a serial cheater. apparently, although he had genital herpes, he felt no need to share that information with any of his sexual partners. Another strike against him as a human being. In the end, this book took Payton down several pegs in my estimation. I kno ...more
Sad. We build people up based on the most arbitrary of skills, elevate them to an unrealistic status, then watch (somehow shocked, even horrified) as they reveal themselves to be all too human.
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