A new biography of Walter Payton, the National Football League’s all-time leading rusher, details his sad descent into liver disease, painkiller addiction, and erratic behavior in the years leading up to his 1999 death at age 45.
I have been critical of Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute for pulling punches about the NFL’s role in the public health crisis of football brain injury and disease. But all praise is due Nowinski for his strong comments on Jeff Pearlman’s Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, as reported by David Haugh in the Chicago Tribune. See http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/ct-spt-0930-haugh-payton-book-bears-chicago–20110930,0,5781444.column.
“The 83 years of published medical research on CTE is far less speculative than the substance of this book,” said Nowinski, a Bears fan who grew up in Arlington Heights. “To reveal Walter’s personal struggles without any inquiry or discussion of the medical reason that likely contributed to those behaviors is either driven by profit or laziness and doesn’t do justice to who Walter Payton was the majority of his life.”