Author Jeff Pearlman says Walter Payton battled with depression, considered suicide, had extramarital affairs, and abused painkillers, in his new book titled, Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton.
Today Connie Payton issued this statement on Facebook:
“Walter, like all of us, wasn’t perfect. The challenges he faced were well known to those of us who loved and lived with him. He was a great father to Jarrett and Brittney, and held a special place in the football world and the Chicago community. Recent disclosures – some true, some untrue – do not change this. I’m saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility. Thank you all for your continued support.”
In an excerpt from Pearlman’s book, he writes,
“The burden of loneliness and his marriage weren’t Payton’s only problems. As a player he had numbed his maladies with pills and liquids, usually supplied by the Bears. Payton popped Darvon robotically during his playing days, says [his longtime agent Bud] Holmes, “I’d see him walk out of the locker room with jars of painkillers, and he’d eat them like they were a snack”, and also lathered his body with dimethyl sulfoxide, a topical analgesic commonly used to treat horses.
Pearlman told Sports Illustrated he was motivated to write about somebody iconic. “There aren’t many icons who haven’t been written about a million times,” he said.
“There hasn’t been much written about Walter Payton. You can narrow it down to he was a great football player and a prankster. But for good and bad, he was also very introspective,” Pearlman explains.
“Payton was an odd combination of extrovert and introvert,” Pearlman said. “When it came to fans, he was as great as you could be. But he was also, after his career was over, a beaten up person who struggled to find happiness. As I wrote, there were many times he would bring up suicide. There was this cry for help that he never felt comfortable doing anything about.”
Pearlman said he interviewed 678 people for his book.
Payton’s widow said she never spoke to the author. She never saw Walter take drugs. However he did talk about suicide.
Regardless of the book she said it was Walter’s final words that brought her comfort. In all the ups and downs and all the people he felt betrayed him, he said, she was the only person who had his back whom he could trust.
The Bears released this statement:
“The Chicago Bears had the unique honor and privilege of having Walter Payton as a part of our organization for over two decades as both a player and board member. We believe his competitive spirit lives with us today. When we take the field each Sunday, we represent the great players like Walter who helped build the rich tradition of our organization. Nothing will change our feelings for a man we have the deepest respect for and miss having around Halas Hall to this day.”
Walter Payton died of bile duct cancer in 1999. Pearlman’s book goes on sale Oct. 4.