I was left with a whole series of “what ifs.”None of the questions relate to the running back’s prowess as an NFL star.What if Payton’s boyhood growing up could’ve been more “normal” with a stronger, more attentive father as a positive role model?What if he had somehow been taught and caught early in life fidelity within the marriage relationship?What if he never took a second look at any other woman than Connie Norwood?What if his behavioral disorders would’ve been dealt with earlier?What if he had received, accepted and followed strong, psychological counseling?What if his estranged wife and Payton mutually accepted and implemented legitimate marital counseling early on in their marriage when trouble first began?What if Payton didn’t become a slave to pain pills?What if the underlying cause of the medical issues that ultimately took his life were diagnosed and treated much sooner, when it was still possible to reverse their course?What if?
By his own count, Pearlman interviewed 678 people in an effort to find out who the real Walter Payton was.The author lists at least nine other previously published attempts to unmask the Sweetness mystery.Do we need this tenth Payton biography?An apparent Jekyll and Hyde in life, I’m not sure even Payton himself knew who he really was.Perhaps Pearlman summed it up best: “For most of the athletes who wear a uniform of some sort, legacy simply does not exist.You’re a rookie.Then you’re a veteran.Then you retire.Then you vanish.Poof!Gone, as if your career never really existed to begin with.”Sad.Very sad.And depressing.
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