Jeff Pearlman

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Dicka

So Eddie Payton has a new book out, Walter & Me, that is (I’m pretty certain) intended to counter Sweetness.

Contrary (I’m guessing) to some beliefs, I’ve got zero beef with Eddie. In the course of researching Sweetness, he granted me two lengthy sit-down interviews, and guided me toward many of the key figures from Walter’s life, including Bud Holmes (his agent) and Bob Hill (his coach at Jackson State). Even though I don’t love some of the things Eddie wrote in Walter & Me, I understand a man defending and trying to define his late brother.

That being said …

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. He also happens to be the man who coached the Bears to the Super Bowl XX title, which means he can do no wrong in his adopted hometown of Chicago.

I, however, don’t live in Chicago. Therefore, my reverence toward the man doesn’t exist.

Back when Sports Illustrated ran the Sweetness excerpt, Ditka told a television reporter that, were he to see me, he’d spit on me. Admittedly, Iron Mike had yet to read (or see) the book. But, hey, why should he? Tough is tough, strong is strong, right is right. Of course, a couple of days later, on Dan LeBatard’s radio show, Ditka admitted he probably jumped the gun, and should have given more thought to his words. “OK,” I thought. “Peace reigns.”

Today, however, I read Ditka’s introduction. Here is part of what he wrote …

“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.”

Where to begin? Hmm … how about here—what sort of fool rips a book he hasn’t read? This might be hard for Ditka to fathom, but most people tear apart a book … after completing it. This, of course, would require Ditka to read 480 pages, something I doubt he’s ever done. In fact, I’m willing to accept 100-to-one odds he never read Eddie’s book, which is about half the size of mine.

Second, 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?

Lastly, I love “a few things he heard.” Love it. Sweetness took me 2 1/2 years. I interviewed almost 700 people—including Mike Ditka. And more than 100 NFL teammates. And dozens upon dozens upon dozens of classmates from high school and college. And on and on and on. Sweetness was my labor of love; something I put my heart into.

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.

  • http://thenewrambleon.wordpress.com Andy

    I really shouldn’t be surprised by celebrities shooting off at the mouth considering the number of people overall that do it daily. It’s just that celebrities are provided with a platform to highlight their idiocy.

    I wish Ditka could see the irony in calling your book awful because you never knew Walter Payton while he’s criticizing it without actually having read it.

  • Craig

    I always thought of Mike Ditka as Al Bundy living in a world where scoring 4 touchdowns in a single game for Polk High is one of the greatest sporting achievements in Chicago history…

  • michael

    ditka loved walter payton so much that he gave the ball to the fridge instead of to sweetness to score that touchdown.

    that’s all you need to say about him. what a fraud.

  • Bill

    I think from now on, you should refer to him as Mike Disco, per the anecdote in your book. Everytime I see Ditka on TV, I think of him as Mike Disco and I grin.

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  • Josh

    I’ve never heard of a defining piece of non-fiction that didn’t create as much friction as it did acclaim. Ditka’s a caricature not taken seriously by anyone outside of a 100-mile radius surrounding the Dan Ryan. As for his introduction in Eddie’s book…well, if it makes the seven or eight people who may ever read it angry with you, it’s a cross you’ll figure out a means to bear.

    I don’t know a single sports fan who hasn’t devoured each of your books. Seriously – don’t let it bother you.

  • http://www.ErikShermanBaseball.com Erik Sherman

    “You couldn’t pay me enough to ever crack open the cover of Pearlman’s book.”

    This, from Ditka, says it all about his book reviewing skills.

    How, exactly, does one criticize something they have never read?

    Incredible.

  • Doug

    Ahh, I’ve never read the bible entirely yet find it to be complete BS. Many people take it literally. It’s all about perception and my perception is that you’re both idiots.

  • Neil

    You are unabashedly the biggest asshole I’ve ever read. Just go away. Please just go away. Every time you show up I get more convinced of your assholeness.

  • John

    Fuck you, you arrogant ignorant piece of shit.

  • Bears Fan

    It’s not false what Coach Dikta says. All your information was HEARSAY, You DIDNT know WALTER PAYTON, YOU just capitalized on the TIming of his death!!! Stop crying and Man up!!! Instead of spouting off on your blog why dont you go meet Coach face to face and Call him stupid, dolt, rock head.. Lets see how tough you really are.

    • craig

      capitalized on the TIming of his death? Didn’t Walter die like 12 years ago? That’s bad timing. Authors don’t always know the people they do Bios on, pretty common knowledge. Coach is an ass and should just go away.

    • Bill

      All of Jeff Pearlmans books have been obviously well researched and written very well especially this last one on Walter Payton this man spent over two years woking on this book and talked with over 700 pepople so i hardly believe this book was hearsay and no one is allowed to write about someone after they have passed away really!I was a Walter Payton fan and i enjoyed the book very much stop holding these athletes as Gods like they do not have flaws and lead model lives.Walter obviously had a dark side that the public did not see and as far as Ditka goes he is the most overated coach in the history of the NFL he coached one Super Bowl Winner and he is treated as if has won 10 Super Bowls he sells everthing under the Sun to make a buck he has made more money off one Title than anyone than anyone else known to man.Mr Pearlman was spot on with his critcism of this overated blowhard and it’s about time someone speak the truth about this Dickhead!!

  • Josh

    I loved you on Cheers! You were always a funny witty little lady. Good to see you’re still keeping busy.

  • Pat

    “Ditka is, in no particular order, a dolt, a bully, a thug, a moron, an ass and a fool.”

    Obviously “taking the high road” is a concept lost on someone with such superior intellect such as yourself. Your spiteful description is nothing more than a fleeting grasp at your 15 minutes of fame. Tick tock Jeff, your time is up.

  • blcrje

    This smacks of sour grapes to me, hard to take seriously.

  • Jeff Dorkman

    Mr. Pearlman

    Please leave the dead alone you necrophiliac. Writing about someones shortcomings after they are dead is akin to kicking someone in the shins and running away. I doubt you will post this because sir you are a coward. I have no idea who you are either so maybe this was done for your 15 minutes now please go back under the rock from which you slithered.

    Regards,

    Bobo

    • Steve

      Have you even read the book? It was an honest biography. There are plenty of positive things written about Walter. There are also plenty of negative things written about Walter. In the end, it was an honest biography. Pearlman is the best sports biographer out there. People should try reading the book before making judgments. But unfortunately, that’s not how things work in this twitter/blog world that we live in these days.

      All these meathead Bears fans who are all up in arms over this book make me embarrassed to be a Bears fan. It’s really pathetic.

  • Patrick

    There’s an awful lot of venom here. How many of YOU have actually read the book, or are you all taking cues from your beloved coach and Chicago media? If writing a book about someone who’s passed and wasn’t a major part of the author’s life are two criteria involved for someone to write a book, then our libraries would be pretty empty.

    Jeff Pearlman wrote a book that I’m convinced wasn’t intended to A-look for 15 minutes of fame or B-defame a legend. Is anyone else interviewing 700 sources for a book on Walter? That requires an incredible amount of time and self-discipline as a writer to construct a book. We should be thanking him for doing what he does, because I know I’ve enjoyed his books a great deal.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Wow. Thanks, Patrick.

  • Barry

    Dear the majority of Pulitzer Prize Winner for History,

    Please leave the dead alone you necrophiliacs. Writing about someones shortcomings after they are dead is akin to kicking someone in the shins and running away. How do you know what Cesar and George Washington were thinking? All your information was HEARSAY, You DIDNT know CHARLEMAGNE OR HARRY TRUMAN,YOU just capitalized on the TIming of there deaths!!! Stop crying and Man up!!!

    I’m talking to you David McCullough. I bet you didn’t even bother to ask Harry Truman what his middle name since HE IS DEAD AND CANT DEFEND HIMSELF.

    Regards,
    Barry

    • Barry

      Winners and their.Sorry about the typos.

      • Jeff

        Sorry, Barry, I hadn’t read your comment when I printed a similar, inferior one further down this thread. You crushed it. -Jeff

  • Greg

    Ditka is the same clown who supported a non-Illinoisan, Ultra-Conservative Alan Keyes, for Senate over Barack Obama.

  • http://jeffpearlman.com Doug

    I have a feeling he still feels guilty about not letting Payton score during the super bowl and thats why he defends him so ferociously. That being said the short ribs at his restaurant were outstanding, so I have to side with Ditka on this.

  • http://JeffPearlman.com mark

    Ditka lost the respect of much of his team even during the Super Bowl run. During their most popular window of opportunity, he bullied his own team into not participating in advertising, or media opportunities, claiming that it caused a lack of focus, and was detrimental to the team. Two O-linemen were incredulous when they were forbidden to partake in a lucrative Campbell’s Soup commercial, only to see Ditka’s mug hawking the same product a week later. Jim Finks, Buddy Ryan, Dick Stanfel, and others deserve more credit for Chicago’s only Super Bowl win. He was a “one hit wonder” when Ryan left and Finks became ill and passed. My favorite Ditka moment was when he tried to bully a veteran radio guy named Red Motlow after a particular testy question during a press conference. Motlow calmly stood up to Ditka, stating that he was a paticipant of D-Day and he witnessed true toughness, and Ditka was a phony, and couldn’t hold a candle to these men. Amen!

  • Joe

    Dicka ? Really Mr. Pearlman…..Though you may have a point why respond to Mr. Ditka’s comments. You now have exposed youself to the world as a mean spirited ass.

  • Jeff

    Don’t take it personally, Jeff. I’m sure most of the, “How dare you write about a dead man?” commenters, also write hateful comments on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s website. After all, she didn’t even know FDR, JFK, OR Abraham Lincoln!

  • Dave G

    Ditka is an idiot, Jeff, but you may be a bit too sensitive. For a prominent author and public figure, you have a very thin skin. If I must choose between Ditka and you, I choose the journalist who wrote a detailed book over the moron who can’t read one. But I’m not sure this is a debate worth having. Let Ditka say what he wants. Who gives a shit?

  • Jon R

    Fuck Ditka

  • Philip

    I would put myself initially into the same category of the coach, when introduced to a certain writer who will go unnamed (see this website). When i felt my all time favoriite ball player was under a lot of heat and yet another book was released.

    Yes, I was rude, but didnt do it in an anon fashion. Then I bought the book at list price, even though it could be foudn alot cheaper and read, out of respect, and read it on a flight to asia.

    Although we dont always want to see the other side of things, and I disagreed with some opinions written, it was well thought out, told some great stories from first hand accounts and was a damn good read.

    I came around and realized that the writer was being objective and there wasnt malice behind it. We have to open our minds and look at a more comprehensive view, not just what we hold as fact.

    The other book “shadows” was all about two bottom feeding reporters trying to get on espn… this guy I’m talking about seems to irritate a lot of people, but he’s an alright dude who takes his craft seriously and does a damn good job being comprehensive.

  • Drew

    Wait, are people coming to your website to read your blog and then telling you to go away? That’s like you coming to my house, not liking the framed Simpsons poster on my wall and telling me to get out. Chicago is not a city of dolts, though it’s hard to tell with those who seem to show up around here.

  • Carolyn

    What an absolute weenie/whiner you are, Pearlman! I’m probably the only person here who has read BOTH books—all of both. And in this case, size does not matter. You said, “Eddie’s book is about half the size of mine.” Are we teenagers in the shower comparing body parts? Claiming you interviewed 700 people for your book is insane. After reading your book, I wondered why you did not name Walter’s assistant Ginny Quirk as your coauthor. After all, it is really her book. As far as Eddie’s book, I found it funny, sad, and truthful. Perhaps your contempt for his book and Ditka is because both called you out for several factual errors in your book. So much for 2 ½ years of research and 700 interviews, eh?
    I am not slamming your book at all. I really enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed Walter and Me as well. Two very good books and now you have tainted your own with the stain of disdain. When you have to bring someone else down to elevate yourself, you are destined for a long fall with an abrupt stop.
    You need to grow a set (in this case size does matter) and say, “Congrats for the book, Eddie” and “Mike Ditka is a helluva writer.” Strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up. Move on. Get out of your defensive mode, quit pouting, and be a man. Take the high road. Wait, it is too late, the character is out of the bag. Your rant is childish and unprofessional. I have lost respect for you as a person. Your writing skills probably remain, but what good is that without professionalism and strong character?
    Oh and the Dicka thing? Clever, but juvenile, making it clear who the real prick is.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      C, wow, that was harsh. But fair.

      One thing: I wasn’t ripping Eddie’s book, or the size of it. I really wasn’t. I was just saying Ditka hadn’t read either. But I understand why you got that impression.

  • Kevin

    I read Jeff’s book and was satisfied by it. That said, the thin skin continues on this blog.

    Carolyn summed it up best.

  • Gary

    “Dicka” tells me all I need to know about you, Pearlman- you’re an asshole.

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life