I'm running thru the airport yesterday, see a new Sports Illustrated with Walter Payton on the cover.
"WALTER PAYTON the hero no one knew", it says.
I figure it's going to be an awesome article on him.
I've been mislead.
I find out, among other things, that Walter was a wife-cheater and a nitrous oxide inhaler.
I also feel uncomfortable and finally angry - and this SI article is just the tease to get the public to buy a book that's coming out.
This morning, I see an article by Michael Wilbon over at ESPN asking the question: why tear down Walter Payton now, 12 years after his death?
And I'm wondering the same thing.
Will this book change my opinion of Walter Payton?
Did I not already think a dude who sprinted up "The Hill" 20 times a day probably had a screw loose anyway?
This was a man driven beyond reason to be the best at what he did best.
People like this are goofy in other parts of their lives all the time.
I just don't need to read it so specifically.
I've said in here before I was lucky enough to work on General Mills way back when, and one of their brands was Wheaties.
Back then it was the "What the Big Boys Eat" campaign, featuring big name athletes.
And being approached by Wheaties to be on the boxcover - it's a specail thing that just doesn't happen to everybody.
The commercials were simple enough - basically we'd shoot the athlete in their jersey eating Wheaties and cut in their sports action and tight shots of cereal to that "What the Big Boys Eat" song.
So we're going to film a Walter Payton commercial here in Chicago (I'm sorry but I cannot remember the director's name) with a local production company.
But we get a special request from the client that in addition to filming Walter eating, could we also film him speaking to camera about what it feels like to be on a Wheaties box?
This client said he'd heard Walter speak, and that Walter was amazing.
I was, however, pretty skeptical.
So Walter shows up on time (rare) and with just one other guy as I recall - no entourage or anything.
We shoot him eating and it was a blast!
We had a mic just out of frame to get random ad stuff that might go at the end of the spot.
He'd take a bite with that fabulous smile, say something goofy, everybody'd laugh and he kept grabbing the mic and messing with everybody.
As far as celebrities go he was a dream.
Then we did a wardrobe change to get him looking more serious, put him up against a sweep and asked him the kind of broad questions celebrities don't necessarily like.
How did you get into football?
What was it like growing up being Walter Payton?
What does competition mean to you?
And finally, what does it mean to be on the Wheaties box.
Other guys might give one-word answers, you know?
Nobody needed to be told to be quiet.
Every grip and gaffer and camera assistant and wardrobe guy watched as Walter spoke on camera for probably a half hour.
I believe the client wanted the film for some internal General Mills thing, but we took some of it and tried to make it into a spot.
They never bought - the Wheaties image was way more active and energetic, but everybody liked it.
Sure, what ended up in the cut is pretty Wheaties-focused, but I never doubted his sincerity.
And I so wish I'd have kept some of the other footage because it was just one of those magic things that happen sometimes.
He was at the top of his game, the greatest to ever carry a football, and he was just so freaking nice.
It was so much fun.
Anyway, here's the spot.
Probably I'll get asked to take this down but I hope not.
It's good for Wheaties and football.
But if this post disappears, that's what happened.
Anyway, he wasn't perfect.
I sure don't need to read a couple hundred pages dedicated to that.
PS: I also happened to shoot his wife Connie for a print ad - an ad for a brand of flour that had her recipe in it.
She was as normal and real as...it was like taking pictures of a nice neighbor or something.