Not Your Typical Jock-Autobio Fare

16 Jan Not Your Typical Jock-Autobio Fare

…So says the Los Angeles Times of Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open

“Not your typical jock-autobio fare. This literate and absorbing book is, as the title baldly states, Agassi’s confessional, a wrenching chronicle of his lifelong search for identity and serentity, on and off the court.”

I haven’t read a lot of jock auto-bio’s…have I read any? Hmm…anyway, not much  in the way of athletic autobiographies I can compare with this book.  But does it matter what you’re reading, what the genre, so long as the writing is good, the content informative and entertaining, the story captivating? I’ve confessed, I don’t play tennis. I know nothing about the sport, save for the fact women’s wear is quite cute (skirts while working out…I like it). Of course tennis entails superb athleticism, strategy, technical skill. Yup, it’s all there in the book, but here’s what I’m appreciating about Open.  No doubt he can play tennis–but Andre can also write. And that’s what the Los Angeles Times reviewer meant.

One thing that drives me nutso is how so many “stars” attempt the cross-over leap to find fame in other entertainment genres. Ie: the Jennifer Lopez’s out there who ought to choose acting or singing, but spare us please, not both. Or the Disney Stars who turn out to be singers/dancer/actors/ or the boy/girl bands made up of a bunch of studio-enhanced cuties who should probably ponder  university because their moment of fame is sure to come to a quick conclusion when their elementary-aged fans hit high school.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of people out there who can sing and act and dance, all with credible skill worthy of the stage. And while I quickly change the channel when Jennifer Lopez starts telling me her love don’t cost a thing, I dare say she can sing better than me. And she’s got some good managers/marketers and has risen from the  husband-messed-around-ranks with her head held high. She’s a big success and I don’t begrudge her a thing…except her hair. Damn! Do you think it’s extensions?

Anyway…I digress badly as what I’m really saying is: Andre Agassi isn’t one of those dudes who, by virtue of his sports fame, thinks he can pen a book. No ghost writer involved. The man can write.

It’s not only the story of his life, it’s a darn good read! He is completely candid about his wacky, abusive father and tenderly touching in his love/hate devotion to him. It’s particularly poignant when he talks about an English teacher who told him he had uncommon talent–not on the court–but on the page, particularly for poetry. The teacher’s true faith in him  makes the rebellious, smart-ass, teen Agassi truly proud and has him ponder what he’d do if he could do what he really wanted, instead of being groomed from his first steps to become a tennis star.

His friendship with a kid named Perry, while not described in a sentimental way, causes a stirring of the heart as Agassi finally finds a real friend (other than his older brother) who gets him. With Perry Andre can be himself.  He gets the abusive/dominant, tennis racket-wielding father determined to make his son into a star, gets his insecurities, his inability to stand up to the family patriarch, his fears, his love of horror films and convenience store junk food. When Andre’s father sacrifices the family finances and moves him to the Bollettieri Academy for tennis stars, Andre is painfully homesick for Las Vegas,  his siblings, but mostly, Perry.

And there’s humor too. Dry, quick, and unexpected, there are plenty of places I’ve laughed out loud.

A third of the way through, I’m getting it.