During this past week’s procrastinatory idylls, I had a chance to read two very different accounts of how folks deal with the fallout of fame. The first was an excerpt from an upcoming biography of the late Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, a man who basically apart after his playing career was over. His daughter neatly summarized the great athlete’s post-football dilemma:
Upon his retirement in the winter of 1988 as the NFL’s alltime leading rusher, Payton found himself burdened by a realization that had struck thousands of ex-athletes before him: I am bored out of my mind. When strangers asked, he talked about how thrilled he was to be free of the burdens of football. “I’m not going to miss the pounding,” he told ABC’s Peter Jennings. “And the getting up at six and working out until dusk.” The words were pure fantasy. He would miss it desperately. “He went from an abnormal existence as an athlete to a normal one,” says Brittney, now 26. “How does anyone do that?”
Payton’s polar opposite just might be Mark Hamill, whose awesome Q&A with The A.V. Club should be read by anyone with even a passing interest in Star Wars (or, for that matter, Corvette Summer). True, there are big differences between what Hamill and Payton experienced—Hamill still gets good work as an actor, for example. But they both had to confront the realization that even though decades worth of life lay ahead of them, they’d always be known for work they accomplished in their twenties. Hamill’s attitude toward this fact couldn’t be more admirable:
But like I say, I try and keep a distance, but also want to make people know. Because people will say, “I know you hate talking about Star Wars…” I say, “I don’t hate talking about Star Wars if you don’t hate talking about Star Wars.” I mean, I’m really in tune with what people want. And I’m not cynical about it at all. And people will say, “Oh, you didn’t get a very good deal.” But I didn’t get into this business for the money in any way. And I didn’t get into it to be remembered in any way. So the fact that it’s had such long-lasting resonance with new generations of audiences, it’s, to me, very special.
I love him for this, just as I once loved him for his skillful gargling on The Muppet Show.