Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton” as Want to Read:
Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,677 ratings  ·  145 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,677 ratings  ·  145 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton
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 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is not for everyone, though it is very much for me, a trip down Memory Lane. I lived in the Chicago suburbs as a teen, moving there around the time Walter Payton began his career. He occupied an outsized share of mind for me and many peers. I still can hear the game announcer calling, "Payton up the middle for three," followed on the next play with "Payton up the middle for three." I lived in Lake Forest, home to the Bears training camp. "Did you hear Walter Payton got caught speeding ...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.

Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports, non-fiction
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
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
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
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.
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!
Amanda (Tholke) Hollenkamp
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.
Sean Polite
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an avid fan of sports literature, and a very pleased reader of two of Mr. Pearlman's previous biographies ("Boys Will Be Boys" and "Showtime" respectively), I was avid to delve into the book he did on one of the truest sports icons and idols of my youth in the late Mr. Payton. His prose is nuanced and descriptive, intimate yet knowing. The laser focus he attributes to the multitudes of competitors in the aforementioned books, were dedicated to teams in an epoch of a dynasty. With one of the m ...more
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:
Dennis Brooks
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to hate this book. I certainly wasn't going to buy it. I grew up with Walter Payton as my greatest hero. His portraits adorn my law office today. When this book came out, I read about the backlash against the book, about how it dug up dirt on my hero. But this Christmas, the book was given to my a friend who didn't know my revulsion to the book. So what do I do? Trash it?

No, I took it on vacation and started reading it, curious about just how distasteful it was. And to my surprise, it w
James Carter
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Somebody asked me recently who I thought was the greatest running back I ever saw. I simply said, "Walter Payton." My response was interesting because I didn't think about it at all despite me having seen a fair share of great running backs. But there hasn't been another Walter Payton and won't happen. He was the greatest all-around football player.

Maybe the most shocking event for me as a sports spectator was the press conference for Walter Payton when he announced that he was dying and had mo
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nfl, biography
I listened to the audio book and while long it's well researched and well written. The book starts in Payton's hometown of Columbia, Mississippi and most of the first part I admit is boring and the rest is interesting and engaging.

At times the book is funny and hysterical even from sheer dumb luck or from Payton's antics.

The book exposes the drug culture that is part of the dark side of the NFL that they don't want exposed. It was also interesting to learn how much players were paid in the 197
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
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
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
Mike Ginocchio
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are very few books that have moved me to tears in my life. Sweetness is one of them.

Meticulously researched, expertly sourced, and written with a love and appreciation for a man most people had reduced to a one-note myth, Jeff Pearlman goes after Walter Payton with an objective look at a man whose surface persona as "Sweetness" did not always mesh with the reality of who he was. He was a complicated, at times selfish, at times noble, and always compelling figure. If you're the type who bo
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Through My Eyes
  • Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity
  • Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton
  • Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever
  • The Jordan Rules: The Inside Story of One Turbulent Season with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls
  • Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices & Priorities of a Winning Life
  • I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to the Blind Side, and Beyond
  • The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul
  • Return of the King: LeBron James, The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Greatest Comeback in NBA History
  • Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football
  • Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made
  • When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi
  • When the Game Was Ours
  • Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, the American Dream
  • Hench
  • Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance
  • Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball
  • Michael Jordan: The Life
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
32 likes · 16 comments