Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Agassi Has Just Begun to Pursue His Calling

Andre Agassi is a Hall of Famer now, but his most important work is yet to be done.

What's not to love about Andre Agassi? In a span of 20 years the man has run the gamut. He started his career as a reluctant yet effective poster boy for narcissism and corporate megawhoring, and finished it as a born again saint who'd finally made peace with himself and the game he both loved and hated. All the while, Agassi's been so much more than the haircut and a forehand that he was rumored to be in the early stages of his career, and more importantly, so much more than the "image is everything" touter that Madison Ave. ad-execs paid him to be.

For Andre, it was never just about the tennis, or the image, and you have to love him for that. It can be so easy for larger-than-life personalities like himself to get lost in all the attention and the fawning that comes with being a star and become desensitized to the world that surrounds them. After a tumultuous tennis career that saw Agassi run the spectrum from underachiever to brash young star on the rise to beaten down over-the-hill veteran in decline to -- finally -- sentimental favorite and man of the people, Agassi will now begin on what he perceives to be his true mission in life: providing educational opportunities for under privileged and at-risk children.

When the sporting world came to welcome Andre into its Hall of Fame community on July 9th, it was fitting that students from Andre's charter school were on hand to help commemorate Agassi's magnificent achievements.

Because for Andre, it's about the kids now. This is not some smoke he's blowing up your you-know-what to win your votes. The man has found his true calling in life and he's following his muse.

Isn't that refreshing? If you're an athlete and you're contemplating retirement at the age of 35, isn't it good to know that you don't have to stop living, to stop dreaming, or to stop competing? Sure, you're not likely to be standing on a field of dreams with hordes of crazed admirers chanting your name ever again, but it doesn't mean that you (the retired athlete) don't still have your biggest days ahead of you, and your grandest accomplishments too.

But the lesson of Agassi reaches beyond the athlete. It speaks to all of those -- regardless of age, social standing or financial means -- who want to have a calling in life, and who have not found it yet. There is still time! Because if Andre Agassi can reinvent himself at the end of his tennis career, then so can a lot of other athletes, and regular Joe's too.

Kudos to Agassi, for never being happy with just being an athlete, and for always searching for a way to transcend the sport so that he could ensure that his legacy reaches far beyond tennis.

His is a great example for all of us to heed. Life doesn't end with your first career. You can make mistakes and fall behind in your twenties, thirties, whatever, but if you pay attention to who you are, are willing to look inside yourself for answers to the difficult questions, and maintain the desire to make a difference in this world, you too can find a calling in life.

For me that's what Agassi represents: that faction of people who've been lost at some point. We can all lack purpose at times, and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

In Agassi we see a man who needed time to find himself, but when he did, he was more dimensional and more gracious than we ever thought possible. And he's only just begun to make a difference.

Maybe the same goes for some of us.


  1. Well, I am sure I will be castigated for saying this. Agassi may be doing great things for education right now. If I separate that and pretend that he is another person I applaud him for that. But he is not another person. I really don't know what his agenda is. What made him who he was before; the man who hated tennis, the man who took drugs, the man who married Brooke Shields-these men are still within him. Some of that came out during the charity match with Sampras, Federer, and Nadal. He was pretty much of a jerk then. Just because he becomes someone else afterwards doesn't mean we really know who he is. Basically, we don't. He is a jerk and he also helps with education and other charities. I don't see his charity any better than Nadal's or Federer's, except he is an American. We praise him, we laud him, but if we look at all the ATP players who have foundations etc. he is no better than they. It may sound like I don't like Agassi, but that isn't true. I just don't think he should be put on a pedestal nor should I think that what he proclaims to be now is better than before. How could he write how much he hated tennis and then thank tennis for his life. As Americans we want to forget about the past. But he is a complicated person and I don't know what to believe at what time. We can say that he has given some kids some chances in Las Vegas but beyond that. This is Sunny nine but your program wouldn't accept my e-mail address.

  2. Sunny -- not sure what's up with blogger's comment bugs. Sorry about that. Thanks for chiming in though!

  3. Great post, loved how you tied Agassi finding a greater calling post-tennis. Appreciated previous comment about the complexity of him as a person, and I agree that too often celebrities are lauded for doing work that ordinary folks do daily. But, all of us are complicated, and perfectly capable of doing terrible things to each other, then still turning around and doing something great. Nice work!

  4. Agassi has had many lows and highs in his life and he is no exception from someone who struggled with issues from that fame. It takes a strong individual to move past the defeats and push forward and become a stronger individual and I think Agassi has done that. His off court philanthropy has touched many and when its all said and done I don't think anybody will be talking about "image is everything" any longer.

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