Ditka rips author of Payton biography
Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka said he would like to "spit on" Jeff Pearlman, the author of a new book about late Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton.
In "The Hero No One Knew," excerpts of which were published this week by Sports Illustrated, Pearlman details Payton's abuse of prescription painkillers, adulterous behavior, and his post-NFL battle with depression.
The revelations about his former superstar rusher prompted Ditka to call Pearlman "pathetic" and said there was no purpose in writing the book other than for money.
"I'd spit on him," Ditka told NBC Chicago. "I have no respect for him."
Pearlman said Friday he is surprised at the response the book has generated.
"It's been pretty fierce," Pearlman said on the Dan Patrick Show. "I've never had a backlash like this in my life. It hasn't been the most fun day in my life."
Pearlman added that he "loves" Payton and feels an even greater appreciation for him after learning about his struggles.
"I guarantee you, when people read the full book, all 460 pages and not just the five in Sports Illustrated, they'll consider it a very detailed and all-encompassing and very fair look at his life," Pearlman said.
Payton died in 1999 at age 45 after battling a rare liver disease and cancer of the bile duct. He retired in 1987 as the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards, though the record was broken by Emmitt Smith in 2002.