Maybe it’s because of the people I hang out with, but there has been a lot of talk about this Agassi fellow of late.
I remember when he was big in the early nineties, when acid washed jean shorts, florescent colors and frosted tips weren’t a sign to run as quickly as you could in the other direction as they are today, but actually considered cool. Unfortunately, 60 minutes showed some advertising footage of Agassi from the nineties the other night, and I was disappointed because what I remembered was a hell of a lot cooler than the actuality. Then came the later years, symbolized by a shaved head and a more serious persona. By the time he retired, most of the people who had been so adamantly against him when he was a flamboyant and rebellious newcomer embraced him as one of the greatest players the sport had seen and many even went so far as to consider themselves fans. And no matter how you felt about him, most sports fans remember his stirring speech when he retired from the sport at the 2006 US Open.
For a long time I didn’t hear anything from or about Agassi.
And then I hear that he’s written a book. And that in that book he discusses his use of crystal meth.
Nadal and Federer were not pleased. Navratilova was damning.
And after reading many articles, watching both 60 Minutes’ and ESPN’s coverage, I’m torn. I can’t decide if this is a case of someone used to living years in the spotlight and being controversial having trouble fading into the background? Or is this a genuine gesture motivated by the need to be honest and forthcoming?
Agassi doesn’t have bad intentions in writing his book and coming clean about what was going on behind the scenes throughout his tennis career. Had it been me advising him, I would not have told him to refrain from writing or publishing the book, but I would have told him to wait. Because it is a fascinating story and he is a compelling personality, and his story should be told and there are many waiting to soak it up. But, I would have told him to wait until his name wasn’t as recognized among kids who now might think of the drug as less dangerous since he is associated with it and was able to play at a high level while using it. To wait until a few more of his rivals had retired so those that competed against him might feel a little less cheapened by his blatant disrespect not only for the sport but for their contribution to it as well as their time and energy.
But now it’s out there. And while part of me wants to appreciate the book for what he claims it is, an open and honest look into his life, I can’t help but think that the motivation was more than slightly tainted with that old Agassi urge to rebel. To be noticed. To be different. To fight, even when you’re not quite sure who you’re fighting against.