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Open and Honest

  • Jul 10, 2011
You know Andre Agassi. He was the punk tennis player with the 'tude who was widely hated and criticized in tennis for his outrageous shock styles and antics, calculated, of course, for the maximum exposure and attention. Sure, he turned into a fine ambassador for the sport and a respectful elder statesman who soaked up the adulation when he became the oldest tennis player to ever reach the world's top ranking, but most of us 80's babies remember that stubborn, offbeat nut who married Brooke Shields and told us all about how image is everything.

Reading Open, Andre Agassi's autobiography, really makes you think about his image is everything advertisement in a new light. In Agassi's case, we had no clue how true that actually was for him. When you pick up Open, you would probably expect that old Image Agassi coming out and airing some of his dirty laundry. You know the drill: A tell-all featuring braggadocio about every aspect of his life, from tennis dominance to earnings-bought man toys and how many foursomes he's been in. All while giving us one of a series of long-running jock themes in books like this:
1 - I live my life the way I damn well please because it was meant to be lived as hard as possible. I have no regrets about it, so if you expect repentance, fuck off.
2 - I was young and dumb and had a shitload of cash, so don't all men of my stature do things that way? Or...
3 - I hurt a lot of people, but I was stupid and just didn't know any better. I've since found JAY-ZUZ!

Well, none of those are Open. At all. Open has no braggadocio to be found. In fact, here's the key phrase of the entire book, found in the second paragraph of the first chapter: "I hate tennis, hate it with all my heart..."


Oh, Agassi is airing his dirty laundry, alright. But Open isn't airing it through what I call the Phil Esposito method, which is airing it through bragging about how awesome you are and how hard you lived as much as possible. (I named it for Esposito, an NHL legend and notoriously hard partyer and liver who came off REALLY badly in his own autobiography, which for those interested is called Thunder and Lightning.) Agassi's dirty laundry is dirty laundry of a much more difficult sort, at least from the viewpoint of the person telling the story. Agassi isn't bragging or begging for anyone's redemption. In fact, he's not advocating the life of a professional athletic star in any way at all. He hated everything about it with every fiber of his being, so much that at one point during his career, he spent a couple of years going around on tour simply getting high and tanking every match he played.

That whole wildman punk image, by the way, wasn't so much an attention-grabber as it was the actions and behaviors of a screwed-up and confused kid who had no idea who he was. Andre Agassi is not a man who went into tennis willingly; he had a racquet placed into his hand right in the crib by a stern father trying to live his dreams of tennis stardom through Andre. He was one of those guys who even eschewed his kid's schooling. As a result, tennis was the only thing Andre could do well, and his reason for being a professional tennis player was because he didn't know anything else.

A lot of what Agassi did seems based in the philosophy of "this is what regular people do, right?" Being deprived of a regular childhood can do that to a person. The sports car and bachelor pad in Vegas sprang from that, as did the marriage to Brooke Shields. Agassi takes no pleasure in revealing any of this.

The real miracle during that period for him was that he managed to find a dependable team he could rely on in lieu of just a posse. His little team may not have understood the kid of pressure he faced, but they were always there to lend him a helping hand whenever he needed one. He even managed to create a friendship with Nick, a guy who ran a tennis school his father placed him into after plucking him out of high school to spend more time playing tennis. That's a remarkable development because during his time at the academy, Andre developed his rebellious streak, and his father only learned of the academy because - no joke - he saw a piece about it on a news show which was condemning it. Later he meets his trainer, Gil, who grows into a kind of father figure. Later still, there's Stefani Graf, his eventual wife and the only person on the planet who understood the kind of pressure Andre was under.

The match descriptions can get a little bit tiresome for people like myself who don't know a whole lot about tennis. There were points in which I was just reeling because of my inability to understand just what Agassi was talking about. In an interesting twist, the tennis matches, while descriptive, are in there mostly because tennis was Agassi's life. They don't play major roles. The most they get is when Andre says that he did this when he should have done that or the other, which is something anyone can understand. The theme of the book can be understood by anyone, and the tennis is basically just interludes.

Open should be read by anyone looking for a life in professional sports. Agassi, again, never advocates any of it, and in fact comes off like he was just seeking a normal, everyday lifestyle which he was denied from his earliest years.

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July 11, 2011
A fantastic review. Quite the insight into Agassi and his relationship with tennis. Nicely done!
July 11, 2011
Thank you!
July 12, 2011
Welcome. :)
July 10, 2011
I love tennis and Agassi is one of my all-time favorites- he had his rebellious time like we all have but, he was able to give back to the community that he's made a home with a family that he loves more than life. My mom read this and loved it, I keep trying to get it from her! Fantastic review!
July 11, 2011
Yeah, in the book he talks about how happy he is that none of the students in the school he owns know who he is.
July 11, 2011
LOL...I bet!
July 10, 2011
excellent review. I am swamped right now with books I have to read but I will add this to my TBR pile. Thanks for sharing this review with us!
July 11, 2011
It's worth it - this is better than any baseball book I've ever read, and I have a blog devoted to baseball books!
July 10, 2011
Sounds like a great read. Andre's picture is on the front page of this morning's Providence Journal sports section. He is in town this weekend for his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.
July 11, 2011
His post-comeback work should probably get him in.
More Open: An Autobiography reviews
review by . January 01, 2010
 Open, Andre Agassi's autobiography, received a tremendous amount of press for a few shocking revelations, including:   1.  Meth use   2.  Lying to the ATP about positive drug results due to the meth use   3.  His and Graf's hatred for tennis, stemming from their somewhat psychotic fathers   4.  His use of a hairpiece to maintain the golden boy image      With Agassi, there is always overwhelming substance beyond …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this book


From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Pro tennis could teach the mafia about omertà. Although dozens of champions have chattered away to ghostwriters, their memoirs have generally remained silent about the game's seamy realities. Presented to the public as clean family fun, an upscale entertainment for the country-club set, top-level tennis is actually played by the physical and emotional mutants of a misery machine that leaves them too ill-educated or psychically damaged to understand what has happened to their lives. Like most victims of abuse, they'd rather not talk about it. So it's both astonishing and a pleasure to report that Andre Agassi, who was castigated for an ad campaign saying "Image is everything," has produced an honest, substantive, insightful autobiography. True to the genre of jock hagiography, it has its share of stock footage -- total recall of famous matches, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and an upbeat ending. But the bulk of this extraordinary book vividly recounts a lost childhood, a Dickensian adolescence and a chaotic struggle in adulthood to establish an identity that doesn't depend on alcohol, drugs or the machinations of PR. Agassi was born in Las Vegas to a brutal Iranian immigrant, a former Olympic boxer, who forced his four children to play tennis. As a pre-schooler, Andre began hitting balls on the backyard court for hours every day. School, friends, social life and especially thinking were considered ...
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ISBN-10: 0307268195
ISBN-13: 978-0307268198
Author: Andre Agassi
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, Sports
Publisher: Knopf
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