The author of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton continues to fire back at people who accuse him of doing an injustice with his portrayal of the late, great Bears running back.
This time his target is Mike Ditka. Writing on his site, Pearlman takes great offense to Ditka’s introduction in a new book Walter and Me, written by Payton’s brother, Eddie.
A portion of the foreword reads:
“And when it comes to someone writing about my friend, I have to ask, how well did the writer really know him? Did he grow up with him? Was he on the field with him? Did he live with him? Was he a parent? Was he a coach? Was he a player? In the case of Jeff Pearlman, the answer to those questions is, “no.” Pearlman wrote a book about Walter, but it was written from a distance. It was all secondhand. He put together a few things he’d heard—some of them from people who have very little credibility—to paint a picture that just doesn’t look much like the Walter I knew …
“He’ll always hold a high place in my book, and you couldn’t pay me enough to ever crack open the cover of Pearlman’s book. I know he tried to say you can’t just look in the excerpts, but I saw all I needed to see in those excerpts. It’s pathetic to write something like that about an individual who isn’t here to defend himself. If the person has passed and can’t respond, then just let the speculation rest with him. Period.”
Pearlman doesn’t mince words about his feelings toward the former Bears coach. He titled the post, “Dicka.” He writes:
The book’s introduction is written by Mike Ditka, a person I consider to be, unambiguously, stupid. I would call Ditka’s brain rock-like, only I feel it could be interpreted as an insult to some of the world’s fine rocks. Ditka is, in no particular order, a dolt, a bully, a thug, a moron, an ass and a fool.
Pearlman continues to take the sledgehammer to “Iron Mike.”
I love how Mike Ditka has taken ownership of Walter Payton, and feels comfortable in discussing his legacy. If Ditka knew Walter so well, how was he thoroughly, 100-percent unaware of his late-life despondency and depression? If Ditka was so tight with his former halfback, why didn’t he help him out with the emotional problems that so plagued him? Where was Mike Ditka when Walter Payton needed him?
Furthermore, in all those years of slamming Walter Payton into defensive lines, did he ever think, “Hmm, perhaps I should give him a rest?” Did he ever think, “Maybe this pounding is too much?” It’s easy now, years later, for Ditka to talk about all the wounded warriors and how much help they need with the physical and mental beatings NFL life offered. But where was such judgement when he was coaching? Where was Mike Ditka then?
Pearlman notes that he interviewed 700 people for the book, including Ditka and Eddie Payton (twice). He contends to do a complete and accurate portrayal of Payton, he had to delve into his troubled personal life. Pearlman understands how that bothered Payton’s fans, who don’t want his memory to be tarnished in any way.
I could understand Mike Ditka disliking the book. I could understand Mike Ditka ripping it in an introduction that, we all know, he didn’t write and probably didn’t even review.
What I can’t understand is his pride in blind idiocy.
That’s just pathetic.
Pearlman’s Payton book now is out in paperback. In August, he did an interview with me in which he said he hoped people in Chicago would give the biography a second chance.
Clearly, there are better marketing strategies than taking shots at Ditka, an icon among icons in Chicago. It’ll give his critics another excuse not to read the book.
Pearlman, though, doesn’t care. If somebody takes a swing at him, he is going to swing back. Sales, be damned.