'Walter & Me' spends too much time on brother, not enough on Sweetness

'Walter & Me' spends too much time on brother, not enough on Sweetness

Now that we are in 2013 and the holiday busyness is over, many people turn to the exciting sport of football to get through the cold month of January. Sundays are spent watching playoff games and hoping that your team makes it to the Super Bowl.

One of the most exciting seasons for Chicago Bears fans was 1985, when Mike Ditka coached, and Walter "Sweetness" Payton and William "Refrigerator" Perry led "Da Bears" to victory. Walter Payton has been a favorite among many Bears fans, and tears were shed when his life ended much too young from a battle with a rare autoimmune liver disease in 1999.

When you have a player this great who lived a short but full life, books will be written. The newest one is titled, "Walter & Me: Standing in the Shadow of Sweetness," by his brother Eddie Payton with help from Paul Brown and Craig Wiley.

The cover and foreword promise the inside look at Walter Payton's life and career from someone who knew him well: his older brother and also former NFL player, Eddie. But the book does not hold up to its interesting premise. Most of the pages of the book are about Eddie with a mention of what Walter might have been doing at the same time. It's almost like Eddie needed to give himself a pat on the back for being Walter's brother. He's saying, "Hey, look at me, too. I am important."

In the acknowledgement section, Eddie writes, "This book was written in part to dispel many inaccuracies that have been written about my brother, Walter ... I also write this book because I have a story to tell, as well."

That's basically it: He wants his moment in the spotlight, too.

Mike Ditka writes the introduction, and it's clear that he didn't like the well-received book recently written about Sweetness by sportsillustrated.com writer Jeff Pearlman. Ditka writes, "Pearlman wrote a book about Walter, but it was written only 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." (Pearlman's publisher states that he had more than 700 sources.)

Then Ditka goes on to say that Eddie isn't going to just gloss over Walter's faults, but he is going to tell the true and whole story, and celebrate his life. After reading this foreword, if you're like me, you're probably saying, "Let's go, Coach! I can't wait."

However, the rest of the book disappoints. The first chapter is probably the most interesting and seems to be the least about Eddie. He starts with seeing Walter for the first time after he was sick but was keeping his illness a secret.

It's a chilling chapter written from someone who clearly loved his brother and his mother and knew that something was wrong with Sweetness.

But after this well-written chapter, we turn to the Paytons' childhood, high school and college careers, which take up way too much of the book and focus on the older brother more than the star.

The book isn't bad, and it's obviously a reaction from the Payton family and Walter's friends about the faults that Pearlman uncovered in his biography.

One thing to note is that Eddie is donating his proceeds to the Payton Family Foundation, which according to its website helps neglected, abused and underprivileged children.

If you are a Walter Payton, football or Bears fan, it might be worth it for you to try out, "Walter & Me." Just know that you might be getting more "me" than Walter in the book.

Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle-grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). Formerly of East Central Illinois, she lives in St. Louis with her family.

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