Agassi Vs Carey: A Novel Smackdown

Two books by sporting icons hit the bookshelves in time for Xmas. One of them I will be quite intrigued to read. The other I would gladly donate to my local Christian Fundamentalist/Goose stepping Nazi Society for their annual “Bonfire for Jesus” rally.

Can you guess which books I’m talking about? Of course you can! It’s in the title of this blog. Tennis champ and all round born again dude Andre Agassi has released his autobiography and knuckle dragging/tit grabbing Wayne Carey has released his weepy tale explaining how everything went wrong. (I actually would have gladly read Carey’s if it was entitled “Knuckle Dragging/Tit Grapping: The Wayne Carey Story.” Maybe that could be the name of a Wayne Carey cover band? “Knuckle Dragging/Tit Grabbing: The Wayne Carey Experience”. “Look out Irish Bars all over Australia! Bad behaviour is back in fashion and we have the cover band to prove it!” the advertising might say.) I cannot wait to read Agassi’s book. I am slightlymystified as to what he has written, why he has written it and how has he written it. I would like to think that while writing the early chapters of his career he wore his denim shorts…that seem to be back in fashion these days. (Isn’t that right Wil Anderson?) For his early nineties section he could have worn nail polish again and then for his successful years he could just strip back to the bare essentials. See, that is what his career always seemed to me and I felt; having been a big fan of tennis and Andre’s in particular, that we witnessed the incredible growth of a confused yet talented boy into a man and elder statesman right before our eyes. I loved the journey of Andre so much; from his first matches in the 80’s until his tearful retirement that it even played a pivotal role in the first chapter of my solo show “Three Colours Hammo”.

Now he has an autobiography coming out that seems to blow the lid on all of the stories we didn’t even knew existed in the first place. Andre dabbled with crystal meth and then lied to the governing bodies? Where the fuck did that come from? He hated Boris Becker? Boom Boom Becker? How could you not love a guy with ginger eye lashes? He found Pete Sampras really boring? How…ok, well, I’ll give him that one. Poor Pistol Pete was blessed with amazing skills on the court and the personality of a third round Australian Idol evictee. Not interesting enough to want talk to in real life but interesting enough to get a job on Australian commercial television.

What is the motivation for this book? To set the record straight on something no one knew about? Andre has been a wonderful speaker on and off the circuit for a long time now; his charity work has helped and inspired millions all over the world. Heck, I even feel a bit teary any time I see him with his wife Steffi Graf…they always look like two people who were talented yet lost individuals who found love and solace in each other. Isn’t that intrinsically a beautiful story?

So why would he reveal to us that he tried Crystal Meth? For me it doesn’t tarnish him in any way. As a great woman once said, “What evs, no big oops, right?” Right! I actually loved that he tried it, freaked out for a moment, then felt really good about himself and promptly cleaned the house. I wish everyone who had ever tried drugs had that experience. Imagine if River Phoenix had knocked back a cocktail of drugs and then hooked up with the Amish to build a small village. We’d then still have River around today making great movies and the Amish would have a new place to live where they could wail against the evil of buttons.

Some of the stories coming out about the book do bother me. Agassi admits he tanked a game against Michael Chang at the Australian Open because he didn’t want to play against his hated rival Becker. That doesn’t make sense to me. If you hated someone wouldn’t you want to play against them? Wouldn’t you want the chance to beat them and therefore humiliate them? That is what I would do…although that probably says more about my nasty streak than anything else.

What I’m finding fascinating is that people are weighing in with opinions before even reading the book. Heck, I’m doing it now! Men’s tennis champ Martina Navratilova (that is a weak joke and shame on you for laughing at it…even though my whore comedian heart hopes that you did) has declared Andre should be stripped of his trophies while other tennis players are quick to condemn a book that would definitely have had it’s publicists leaking the juicy parts and not the boring sections. I doubt anyone wants to read a book that may state, “I loved playing against Mats Wilander because he was a gentleman and we enjoyed listening to the musical genius of Joan Baez together”. On the other hand Andre shitting himself that his wig might drop off in the French Open is much juicier to the general public.

I feel this book will be a truly warts and all explanation of how one of the greatest tennis players of all time burst onto the scene, struggled with fame and expectation, grew up in the media spotlight and somehow became a mature human being who has embraced who he is and was. That to me will be a fascinating read.

As for Wayne Carey…who gives a fuck? There you go, I said it. I’m laying the smack down like some dude who thinks his opinion truly matters. (It is my blog after all) I don’t care why Carey is the douche bag he is today. I don’t care about what he was thinking in his career and I don’t give a rat’s arse about what happened to him after he retired from footy.

From all reports the dude had a bad upbringing and his dad was a complete arsehole but come on! He wasn’t raised in the mean streets of New York. He was raised here, in Australia, in a white society. No matter how badly you’re treated by your dear old dad surely at some point, through your contact with the real world, you would realise that grabbing a woman’s boob and committing countless other socially unattractive misdemeanours is inherently wrong on all counts? How in this world with all your money and media training could you not realise that being a complete knob is not cool?

“Buy hey J Dawg,” I hear you say. “He had a tough upbringing and then went into an industry that just said yes to everything he wanted starting from when he was a teenager. You’d be a cock spank too if that happened to you.”

Maybe you’re right…who can argue that I wouldn’t be a cock spank? I would like to think though that the first time I did something wrong I would probably think, “Fuck, that was wrong” and then not do it again. The problem I have mainly though is that it has taken him a long time to even show any contrition for his behaviour and it seems that it is only happening when people have finally declared “Enough is enough”. (To be sung in your out loud Donna Summer/Barbara Streisand voice: “Enough is enough, I can’t go on I can’t go on no more no…”)

It is easy to be sorry when you have nowhere else to turn. Carey has had plenty of time to get his story out and ask for our forgiveness…and he does need to ask for our forgiveness because he had no problem shoving his duck waddle posturing in our faces over the years…and has constantly missed the boat. Who can ever forget his interview with Andrew Denton on Enough Rope where we looked into his dead shark eyes and finally realised “Yup, he’s a douche.”

I look at the cover of his book and it makes me do a little sick in my mouth. There he is looking pitiful, that “no one loves me” look in those puppy dog eyes. I have no interest in reading what he has to say…well, except for the chapter where he talks about losing to the Adelaide Crows. (“We’re the pride of South Australia, we’re the mighty Adelaide Crows”…to be sung in your best Donna Summer/Barbara Streisand voices.) That is the one chapter I could read with absolute glee and positively no pants.

Some of you may be thinking that I am being unfair and completely biased because my love of one athlete is clouding my judgement on another. I will be the first to admit that may be true. On the other hand let me make this point.

Andre had no reason to write his book. He wasn’t under scrutiny. He wasn’t being questioned for anything bad. He is loved and respected all over the world. Yet he has chosen to write this book that explains who he really is, about his journey over the years to who he is today. All of our mistakes and triumphs make us the person we are and Agassi is wise enough to realise that there was a lot more to the legend, a boy who struggled yet still grew into a man. It is a story we can admire and respect and I applaud his bravery in taking the more treacherous road.

He is everything that Carey could only hope to be.

Justin Hamilton
November 13th, 2009