Thursday, October 29, 2009

Andre Hates Tennis? Should I hate tennis as well?

Stop the presses!

Burn the manuscript!

Say it ain't so!

After reading an excerpt from Andre Agassi's forthcoming tell-all autobiography, I'm not sure whether to hang up my tennis shoes, snort a line of crystal meth, or make a trek to Tibet for some spiritual healing.

Okay, it's not really that bad, I'm just kidding, but it is a little disconcerting when you read the following lines over and over: I hate tennis!

Sure, Agassi is tongue-in-cheek when he says it, and sure, it's probably something that every single professional player has said or felt like saying at some point and time during their career, but when those three words are figured so prominently in the memoirs of one of the greatest American tennis legends to ever live, it is definitely deflating to a certain degree.

Besides that deflation (which I am currently overcoming, because I played tennis today and I'm pretty sure I loved it!), one thing that the excerpts from Agassi's confessional manuscript has done for me is made me curious to read more. From what I've read so far, it's obvious that Agassi is serious about the title of this book. He's trying to get to the heart of his feelings about the issues that he's faced during his life, and the people that he's been influenced by - not to mention himself.

If first glance is any indication, this may be the closest any of us will ever get into the inner workings of a true legend of tennis. The honesty that I've detected so far is startling. If there ever was a sports book that I was dying to scour from cover to cover this is most certainly the one.

In other words, as great as Federer and Sampras have been on the court, there autobiographies will more than likely pale in comparison to Andre's.

And while it took me a few minutes to realize that Andre and I are different people, and that I can go right on loving tennis with all my heart, and regretting the fact that my father didn't feed me a million balls a year, and urge me to hit EARLIER! EARLIER!, my curiosity to read and try to understand Andre's reasons for feeling the way he does about the sport and about his father have only grown.

The excerpts that I've read have depicted Andre's father as a brute who commandeered Andre's time and energy and never for a second considered what the little topspin-generating phenom wanted out of life. This I can identify with to a certain degree, because much of my young adult life was spent following in the footsteps of my older brother, and I always wanted desperately to strike out on a new path, no matter how well I was doing on the path that was previously forged for me. Can you relate?

I'm glad that Andre is getting to tell his story, and that now he is able to see the world through his own eyes, rather than his father's, but I hope that the book contains a scrap or two of thanks for the man who put together one of the best human ball machines that the planet has ever known. Because however inhumane he was toward his kid, the fact of the matter was that Andre wouldn't have been the Andre that we've come to know and love and worship without him. He'd be sweet and sensitive, sure, but would be be a career grand-slam holder? I doubt that.

From what I've read so far, Andre sounds very much like a sensitive ungrateful kid, who doesn't get the connection between all the hell that his father put him through and all the good that he is now doing, thanks to the wonderful playing career he had. As painful and insidious as it must have been for Andre, the connection still remains. No pain no gain.

Off the top of my head I can think of about 24 billion kids who would have loved to switch fathers and for that matter, lives with him - but that is what makes this book such a must-read: There is only one Andre, whether you agree with him or not, he's as compelling as they come.

*This is not a book review: I've only read the excerpts which were published in Sports Illustrated this week.

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