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Jeff Garlin: Walter Payton Is More Revered in Chicago Than Michael Jordan

Walter Payton #34, Running Back for the Chicago Bears during his final game in the American Football Conference West game against the Los Angeles Raiders  on 27 December 1987 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California, United States. The Bears won the game 6 - 3. Visions of Sport. (Photo by Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images)
Mike Powell/Getty Images

If you were to make a list of people who would create the most interesting take currently rattling around the First Take ecosystem, Jeff Garlin wouldn't be on the first several pages. But he did.

Appearing on the show this morning, the native Chicagoan said something that will be frankly impossible for those outside the city to understand. That Walter Payton is more revered there than even Michael Jordan.

"There is no comparison," Garlin said. "The Chicago Bears are more popular in Chicago on an 0-16 season than all the other teams combined. Chicago runs on the Bears."

He is, of course, absolutely right. His claim about Payton over Jordan is a bit murkier but the longer I consider it, I think it's accurate as well. Which is really incredible because Jordan may be the most popular team sport athlete of all time.

There are just so many factors at play here. Hierarchy in the local ecosystem. Local versus national perception. Jordan, in a way, becoming an international icon and therefore belonging less to the hometown fans. And one final one that shouldn't be discounted: Payton's enduring and lasting legacy.

His early tragic death forged an even tighter bond and his children -- Jarrett and Brittney -- are both well-liked mainstays on local television. By contrast, Jordan rarely if ever has any appearances in Chicago, which is an odd thing considering he'd be showered with adulation anywhere he shows up.

Plus there's the element of plain likability. Jordan isn't exactly revered as an exemplary human. The NFL's all-encompassing sportsmanship award is named after Payton.

Garlin may not have intended to create a spectacular barroom conversation point with his car wash banter, but he did.