Sunday, November 29, 2009

"The first key to writing is... to write"
“You write your first draft with your heart. You re-write with your head.
The first key to writing is to write.”

As wisdom goes, the above statements are so simple, yet so profound.

The above clip was posted by someone on my Academic Writing Club site yesterday. I was grateful for the inspiration. After watching the clip, I wrote three single-spaced pages from my heart.

"The first key to writing is to write.”
The mantra reminds me of the first rule of "Fight Club: "The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club."
But I digress.
Forrester's wisdom resonates with me for several reasons. First, I realize why I have been so enthralled with Andre Agassi's autobiography... because it was written from his heart. People have questioned why he revealed some of the things he did; they have suggested his revelations were "bad" for tennis. I think what he wrote is good for humanity. He has written about what it means to be human. That, according to my doctoral advisor, is what the humanities are about... learning what it means to be human. That is why I want to write... not because I have to write so many articles to become a full professor. But because I want to explore what it means to be human. And I want to share the discoveries that result from my exploration.
I remember another profound statement from the movie, Shadowlands:
"We read to know we're not alone..."
Perhaps that is why I am so avidly devouring Andre Agassi's book. Apparently I am not alone, since it is No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller's list.
How does this relate to the writing I have begun and want to pursue in academia? The writings of several scholars inspire me to write performance ethnography (Norman Denzin) and autoethnography (Laurel Richardson). Richardson wrote one especially provocative article entitled "Writing as a method of inquiry." That is how I want to write... from my heart.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Andre Agassi is "Open"

It comes as no surprise to me that Andre Agassi's new book, Open, has risen quickly to No. 1 on the New York Times best seller list. Since excerpts of the book leaked out, I have frequently been asked by students and colleagues about the admissions that Agassi used crystal meth and that he lied to the ATP after failing a drug test. While nothing much surprises me anymore, I wondered why Andre chose to reveal this information now--including the fact that he HATED tennis. Early in his career, Agassi was often criticized for not living up to his "Image is everything" persona, as revealed by ads for Canon. In those commercials, audiences saw the image of a "rebellious" Agassi running his fingers through his long-flowing hair. The first reaction to Agassi's tell-all came from a student who was shocked to hear that Agassi wore a weave to obtain that look! As Paula Vergara wrote on Twitter, people seemed more surprised by Agassi's admission that he wore a weave than by his confession that he used crystal meth and lied about it!

In my Sport History class, I have always defended Andre Agassi, arguing that he should not be considered an "anti-hero," despite Benjamin Rader's suggestion that he was. Instead, I have touted his accomplishments, since he became one of only a handful of players to win a career Grand Slam in tennis. Furthermore, I argued that his establishment of Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy more than atoned for his earlier indiscretions.

So, how can we understand the indignant responses to revelations in Andre Agassi's autobiography from so many in the tennis world? Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal expressed shock, while Marat Safin suggested that Agassi should return all of his trophies. Martina Navratilova likened Agassi to Roger Clemens, when she said that she felt “not as much shock that he did it as shock he lied about it and didn’t own up to it. He’s up there with Roger Clemens, as far as I’m concerned." Really? Andy Roddick was one of the few to offer compassion when he said: “Andre is and always will be my idol. I will judge him on how he has treated me and how he has changed the world for the better."

In Andre Agassi's appearance on "60 Minutes" with Katie Couric, he spoke candidly about hating tennis, while asking for compassion about other confessions in his autobiography. I'm not sure which of his confessions have drawn the most ire, but I get the impression that some people feel as if Andre committed the unforgivable sin by admitting that he hated tennis! So, why is that such a threatening confession? I think because it destroys the myth that being a professional athlete must be the greatest avocation in the world. How many kids grow up thinking that if only they can become a professional athlete, they will be the happiest person in the world? What if that isn't true? Worse yet, what if there are other athletes who feel like Agassi? Maybe that's the most threatening reality of all!