November 3, 2009

"Sweetness" & Light In Chicago

I've said it to others and I'll say it here - when Walter Payton passed away ten years ago, I pretty much gave up enjoying pro football.

For me (and presumably, many men my age) Payton was a role model - in fact, so much so that when Mom called me "Sweetness" over the phone a coworker asked her if she knew Walter Payton. (She didn't, but her then-boss knew several Chicago Bulls). But when Payton was something to see. Everyone (including myself) had a t-shirt or jersey with the number 34, claiming it as a badge or honor or rite of passage.

It's in that spirit that every once in awhile, I grab a copy of Never Die Easy (Payton's autobiography) and read it. It doesn't read like a typical sports fact, it seems more like a casual conversation. In an age where athletes often depend on ego and overpowering charisma to see them through, it's Payton's quiet strength that comes through the prose. It's not always an easy read, but it's one of the better sports biographies.

Reading it makes me nostalgic for being a Bears fan in the late 70s/early 80s. It's hard to believe that Payton is gone, and this book is a powerful reminder that we'll never see his like again.

Definitely a must-read.

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