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Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,390 Ratings  ·  123 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 ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Gotham (first published September 29th 2011)
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Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
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
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
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
Tom Gase
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.

Kin Pier
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Brian Eshleman
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sometimes I think I engage sports biographies so I can huffily complain about how mediocre they are. As a rule, they don't portray the depth and contradictions inside their subject. As a rule, they survey seasons about as compellingly as a football card or baseball card as they begin to rattle off numbers. Generally, they don't capture scenes that make particular moments stand out.

This one gives me no room for complaint in any of those respects. Walter Payton comes through as a real person, at o
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Maake Tuulakitau
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book has had a huge impact on who I want to be when I grow up. Walter Payton has done so many things that he knows will benefit him and get him closer to his dreams. This book, and Mr. Payton, has told me that things don't become easy but do become possible. I rate this book a five star and recommend it to everyone.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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!
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
a raw, incredibly honest look at one of the greatest football players of all-time who died way too soon. while not as scandalous as his other books, it was so beautiful at the end
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Paul Pessolano
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
“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
Jesse Tooper
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Kris Fernandez-Everett
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sports
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
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction, 2012
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)
Dec 16, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Matt Parks
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
Perelman is one of the best sports writers in the business. The research is excellent and his detail is mind-boggling. The book's title is based on Payton's nickname, "Sweetness".
This book delivers the good and bad side of Walter Payton's life. As a child, Payton was blessed with athletic talent but all throughout life, he failed to mature into a man. His sports career was fiercely competitive and was full of terrible decisions.

The spoiler includes a few random thoughts about this book:
Jon Finkel
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sweetness is an excellent biography by an excellent biographer, Jeff Pearlman. Last year I read his book, Gunslinger about Brett Favre and I bought this book almost immediately after, though I didn’t read it for almost a year. Before reading this, I knew two things about Walter Payton: I wore his KangaRoos shoes and he was always considered one of the top two or three running backs of all time.

Barely a quarter of the way through, Pearlman had already fleshed out a young man you could not help bu
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am both awestruck and disappointed after finishing this novel. Payton's public life was painted nicely as the model husband, father and all around person. He walked on water, as long as it was flooding Soldier Field. The real story of drug abuse, womanizing, depression, thoughts of suicide and fathering a child, that he ultimately wanted NOTHING to do with, is very eye opening. A child out of wedlock in this day and age is NBD but to have nothing to do with said child is unacceptable. Assuming ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not a rabid football fan and I had only a mild understand of who Walter Payton was. I was skeptical about this book because I'm not a fan and I thought the endless football talk would be boring. This book is far from boring. I couldn't put it down at times because I was seriously enjoying hearing about Payton's life from his perspective as well as from others. It seems unbelievable that Jeff Pearlman interviewed over 700 people for this book and it certainly shows. There are some crazy stori ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Overall I rate this book a 5/5 because this book really highlights the main factors of a well known athlete that most football fans would enjoy learning about. The book explains the character of the REAL Walter Payton which created an outburst because people have worked hard to depict a certain type of image for this NFL superstar. The book tells a story of how a man, family agent and secretary went to great lengths to protect his image. I really enjoyed this book because people usually picture ...more
Gavin Williams
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of the most interesting and captivating sports biographies that I have read. It takes the reader behind the scenes of one of the most puzzling and, as the title states, enigmatic sports heroes to ever play. My favorite thing about this book, however, is the fact that the author is not afraid to show the side of Payton that was generally kept hidden from the public. His fearlessness in showing every part of Payton's life, both good and bad, will both surprise readers and pull them in ...more
Mike Day
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, biographies
I have mixed feelings about this book. Walter was such a hero, yet such a tragic figure. His demons are all too visible in our culture today, sadly. This is not a book I would recommend to anyone, but the observations in this book do show the weakness and strengths of man. I was left with an overall sadness, perhaps due to the way it ended.
John Richards
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pearlman is quickly becoming one of my favorite sports writers. I grew up remembering the '85 Bears, but didn't know just how great (and flawed) Walter Payton was. This book help frame the good, bad, and ugly in a very successful career. There are so many leadership lessons in this gem of a biography. I'll be referring to it for years to come.
Chris Rupp
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
An important lesson from this book: Our heroes are human and they have flaws. Walter Payton is and always will be one of my heroes for his determination and refusal to let his disease ruin his passion for life.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A deep and thorough history of Walter Payton and what many did not know. Some things shocking, some not a surprise at all.

Love him or hate him, you will see a side of Payton that you haven't seen before.

I'm glad to have read this to find out a more intimate side of Sweetness.
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book about an all time great. Keeps you reading the entire time!
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Jeff Pearlman is an American sports writer. He has written two books about baseball and was the author of the infamous John Rocker interview in Sports Illustrated. In October 2011 he released his fifth book, a biography of Walter Payton titled, "Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton." It spent four weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.

Pearlman was born and raised in Mahopac, New Y

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