I’m consumed with this incessant chase to do the things I love. When I think about it, a lot of the times it feels like the most selfish thing I have done; to be so goddamned obsessed with figuring it out, sticking with it, and doing it well — whatever it maybe — without a care in the world. It almost gives me a sense of entitlement and power to be just whatever the hell I want to be.
And then I read a book like Open — the autobiography of Andre Agassi — one of the most gut-wrenching life stories of the pain and struggles of an athlete. Except, this is a story with a difference. I’s not your average athlete’s-struggle-to-overcome-obstacles-and-embrace-greatness-in-his-chosen-field kind of story. It’s the story of how Andre Agassi became one of the most celebrated sportsmen the world has seen, playing a sport he hated from day one.
How does that happen?
It must take a unique kind of special, a hard to find gene, an evolved talent and a heightened level of determination and hard work to ace something you hate. Open tells that story. It exposes the strains of crazy, beautiful and wretched that make Andre Agassi the man he is.
Beautifully written by Andre Agassi himself, I was downright shocked to find his style engaging, graceful and human. And most of all captivating enough to make even a not-very-familiar-with-tennis kind of person like me sit up and get engrossed. Open was like opting to take a high-speed and completely absorbing journey back in time.
I think I have a special love for real-life stories of real heroes, told in first person. Because they have this innate capacity to put you square in the shoes of the writer, making you feel your way back out of everything that he/she went through. Every struggle becomes your struggle for as long as those chapters last, every victory makes you smile gently, every high and every low becomes familiar, like its right there within your reach. This was a great book to spring back from this last read. A gentle thud back to reality after riding the high wave of being in a state of flow, so flow-y that I felt like I was on top of the world. Reading Open was a great book to recover from that high. Because it added a touch of much-needed perspective. It was humbling to realise that when you’re spending your days and nights doing the things you love, you goddamn well rock it and be the best you can at it. There are people who emerge world champs, doing things they hate.
The book takes you back in time and you become little Andre, aged 7 standing under the blinding Las Vegas sun, facing 2,500 balls that come shooting out of the ball machine he calls The Dragon. You feel his constant conflict, tossing up the need to stand out and fit in all at once. The rebellion, the pain, the angst, of living up to expectations that cast mighty dark shadows on you. The fight to stay strong in the face of incredible pressure that parents can some times put on children. And most of all the highs and lows that come from triumph of the sort he experienced. The glory of being on top, as well as the dark side of self-destruction that invariably strikes soon after.
Pick this one up, if you have ever felt like you have struggled with life. It puts struggle in perspective and will definitely teach you a thing of two. The best part about the book is that sport is just the framework along which the story is built, not the central axis. That axis is Andre, the man, the human being, not the larger than life sport-star.
Andre Agassi was a droolworthy icon in the 90s, and I harboured quite the baseless crush on him in my early teens. He was the demin-shorts-clad tennis star with crazy spiky and long hair. That’s all I cared about. But reading this book pretty much made me fall flat, head over heels in love with the man. He is an inspiration. And I believe that’s a sign of a good story. Even more so an autobiography.