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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (352 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jeff Pearlman Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2011 ISBN: 9781470805289
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The first definitive biography of Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton

At five feet ten inches tall, running back Walter Payton was not the largest player in the NFL, but he developed a larger-than-life reputation for his strength, speed, and grit. Nicknamed “Sweetness” during his college football days, he became the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards, capturing the hearts of fans in his adopted Chicago.

Drawing from interviews with more than seven hundred sources, acclaimed sportswriter Jeff Pearlman has crafted the first definitive biography of Payton. Sweetness at last brings fans a detailed, scrupulously researched, all-encompassing account of the legend’s rise to greatness. From Payton’s childhood in segregated Mississippi, where he ended a racial war by becoming the star of his integrated high school’s football team, to his college years and his thirteen-year NFL career, Sweetness brims with stories of all-American heroism and covers Payton’s life on and off the field. Set against the backdrop of the tragic illness that cut his life short at just forty-five years of age, this is a stirring tribute to a singular icon and the lasting legacy he made. 

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Jeff Pearlman does the work of first-rate biography in his addictively readable Sweetness. He presents Walter Payton in all of his flaws and contradictions yet leaves you in the end with a much deeper appreciation of an uncommon man.”

    David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • “Walter Payton’s life was thrilling, complicated, triumphant, and turbulent, and it takes an artful storyteller to present it all properly. Thankfully for Payton—and for us, the readers of this splendid book—there is Jeff Pearlman to provide precisely the perfect touch.”

    New York Post

  • “A definitive biography of one of the NFL’s all-time greats…The section on the infamous 1985 Bears, a team rife with dysfunction everywhere but on the field, is a highlight, as is the description of Payton’s senior year in high school, when Mississippi schools were forced to desegregate.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Until now, we’ve known Walter Payton as a two-dimensional figure in football’s pantheon. Jeff Pearlman’s thorough biography, exhaustively researched and compellingly written, shows that beneath the Sweetness lay the raw stuff of mortality. Sweetness is the purest, and most poignant, of portraits.”

    Peter Richmond, author of Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders

  • “Jeff Pearlman proves once again why he’s one of the best sports biographers in the country. This is easily the most comprehensive look at an historic National Football League figure. Pearlman will tell you things about Walter you didn’t know and he does so in a stylish, informative way.”

    Michael Freeman, author of Jim Brown: The Fierce Life of an American Hero

  • “With Sweetness, Jeff Pearlman joins that small group of men who can claim to have caught up with Walter Payton, with history’s most elusive football player. But Jeff’s the first to make that chase with love in his heart. This book is beautiful.”

    Chris Jones, author of Out of Orbit

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephen | 2/15/2014

    " One of the best sports biographies I've ever read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Johnvano | 2/5/2014

    " This book completely humanizes Walter Payton. Ordinarily that's a good thing, but in this case the public persona of a moral, team-first hero is shed for reality. Clearly Pearlman's research was exhaustive, and while Payton loses his sheen in this bio he retains his kind heart. The book is engaging, moving, but it hurt me to read it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eric | 12/22/2013

    " Really, if you were a fan of Payton's, you should read this book. He, like everyone, is so much more than what they do in the public eye, and that makes him a much more interesting person. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jason | 12/1/2013

    " For all of the hype, this book wasn't that controversial. It was really good, and I would recommend that anyone who hasn't read a biography on Payton start here... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Smith | 11/21/2013

    " I learned a lot about Walter Payton I did not know. The author, Jeff Pearlman, did a fine job of researching this book. He writes in a style that is captivating and thorough. I thought the editing was quite weak with several spelling errors, redundant introduction of characters, and contradictory statements (minor - but there). "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Matt Parks | 11/17/2013

    " Pearlman expends so much time and effort conjuring Payton's dark side and personal eccentricities that he shortchanges Payton's (possible the greatest all-around football player to ever play the game)singular genius as a player. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sherman | 11/17/2013

    " A book that pulls no punches. Tells it like it is. All is good points and all the bad. Walter Payton was one of the best running backs around and with that came all the fame and glory, the money, and the prestige. However, he also had a dark side and with that fame and glory came some bad times. He died young at forty-six but most sport fans still remember him. A good book on football and a good book on Walter Payton. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brian Bundesen | 10/24/2013

    " This book is a must read for anyone who followed the Bears during the Payton era. This was a riveting, well written narrative that I could not put down. Learned many new things I never imagined, and was reminded of others. This is a very sad portrait of a Chicago sports icon. I loved the book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alex Silets | 9/22/2013

    " Well written and thoroughly researched. Heartbreaking to my hero worship. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheri Rubin | 9/5/2013

    " This was an interesting and colorful read. I understand now why Jeff Pearlman is persona non grata on the Chicago sports scene. Do not read if you do not want to read some hard truths about Walter Payton. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 9/1/2013

    " This was good but sad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eric Nelson | 8/8/2013

    " Really learned a lot. I like how the author focused on showing all of Payton's greatness and flaws. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jacqueline Bullard | 8/2/2013

    " It was very informative and well researched. However it was too long and often told about other people who I had no interest in learning about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kerri | 7/23/2013

    " I love sports bios, and this book was no exception. Great insight into a man who was very private - I can see how this may have scandalized some people in the Chicago area, but being from Detroit that's fine by me. :-) A fantastic read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Neil | 6/6/2013

    " Very good book. My interest in American football began after his life but it was a privilege to learn about him. Very factually based which is a little turgid at times but it is necessary considering some of the controversy and the numerous times his story lifts your spirit or brings you to tears. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Edmonson | 4/28/2013

    " This biography details Walter Payton's hard work, kindness, on field triumphs, and personal struggles. It describes Walter from all angles. It is clear that the author went to great lengths to interview a lot of people in order to get the whole picture of Walter Payton. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scottlmoritz | 4/18/2013

    " Very thorough and interesting history. Flawed person but we all are. Also explains why he got the good rep too. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Layne | 6/2/2012

    " Love Walter Peyton and the Chicago Bears. Sadness throughout the book, however. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Peggy | 11/20/2011

    " I had a hard time getting into this book so I did not finish. "

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About the Author
Author Jeff Pearlman

Jeff Pearlman is a New York Times bestselling author and sports writer. He has worked as a columnist for SI.com and ESPN.com, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, a staff writer for Newsday, and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and CNN.com. He lives in New York.

About the Narrator

Malcolm Hillgartner is an actor, author, playwright, and professional narrator. Under the name Jahnna N. Malcolm, he and his wife, Jahnna Beecham, have written over one hundred books for young readers; their musicals have played in theaters across America. His audiobook credits include works by Dean Koontz, Nelson Algren, and William F. Buckley Jr. He has won four AudioFile Earphones Awards.