It’s funny you should mention that Agassi autobiography (Open). Who knew it was going to be such a fantastic book? The truth is that it was an inspiration to me, but not in the way you might have expected. Agassi’s story is in many ways a sad one. His father hijacked his life, molded him like a lump of resistant clay. As a result, Agassi hated tennis, even as he stormed up the rankings and found out that he was enormously gifted at this thing that had been chosen for him to do. That’s compelling because it’s so unexpected. But no matter the depth of Agassi’s pathos, and we do feel for the man, but still, for Agassi, it all worked out. He became the best in the world. Excelled to historic proportions at this thing he’d been forced to do. He eventually became rich and famous. And a sex symbol and an unwilling fashion icon. Not to mention he was married to Brooke Shields! And that’s not the half of it. He’s currently married to Steffi Graf, with whom he has children. My point being that once you realize that Agassi’s hatred of tennis and the entire rebellious tenor of his book’s POV comes from a position of enormous power and privilege, you can only feel so bad for the guy. Sorry, but people with wealth and fame and beautiful wives can only be afforded so much empathy.
What I wondered while reading was this: what if you took Agassi’s life up until the point when he was a top junior prospect, a comer generating buzz, but then instead of burning up the rankings and becoming the greatest returner of serve that ever lived, instead of becoming the best in the world, instead of becoming a legend, you became a has been? In other words, what if Agassi had never become Agassi? What would that have done to his perception of the game? Of himself? Of his father? All those emotions invested in the small and narrow pursuit–they wouldn’t just wither up and die; they’d have to go somewhere.
That’s part of the spark that led me to Christopher Downy-Parks, the main character in Returning. Would love to play this out more, but I have to run. Be in touch.
Best to Martha and the girls. Would love to hear back from you soon.