Saturday, November 07, 2009

Turn honest when you write your memoirs

Prem Panicker links to an extract from Agassi’s book, “Open” and exclaims,

"(This) is an example of the sort of searing honesty that is so rare in the self-serving hagiographies that take up so much space on the shelves. Read, again, the passages headlined 1977 and ask yourselves this: Could you have gone through that experience and not been broken by it? Could you have survived, let alone triumphed? And then, when there really is no need for you to do it – could you have viewed your past life with such blinding clarity and painful honesty?"

He also quotes from an article by his friend, Rohit Brijnath, who has pretty much said the same thing:

"His book is a mea culpa, yes, an admission of guilt about recreational drug-taking in 1997 and lies to the tennis authorities. His game then was disintegrating — at one point he played eight events and won a single match. Was the drug an indulgence, an escape? Make your choice, but his honesty deserves respect. We cannot understand sport unless its heroes reveal its insides to us."

The point being made by both the writers is that Agassi being a super-rich guy did not have the need to resort to any ‘sales gimmick’ to increase the sale of his book. And nobody would have come to know about his murky past had he chosen to remain silent.. It takes a lot of courage to reveal something that can tarnish your reputation forever. That he still came out with a confession on his own shows that he is extremely honest. QED.

I find this argument extremely stupid. Calling Agassi honest because he has chosen to reveal all on his own now is like saying that Ramalinga Raju was a paragon of virtue because he confessed voluntarily and owned up to his misdeeds.

Agassi’s troubled childhood may explain why he took to drugs. But that can’t be used as an extenuating factor to justify his dishonesty or to evoke sympathy.

If we glorify this belated act of confession, the moral of the story will be that we are allowed to indulge in all kinds of dishonest acts till the age of 40. We can always wipe the slate clean, at the age of 50, by revealing all in our memoirs.


Molaga said...

I don't want to be seen defending Agassi.....but I believe there is scope for a more nuanced position on his drugs confession.

For starters, Agassi has already paid enough price for his confession - people as eminent as Nadal, Navaritilova, Federer and Becker - have already come out storngly against his action. At that level this kind of critiscm can be scathing and can deflate even the most thick skinned of people.

Second, Agassi snorted a bit of "recreational" (not performance enhancing) drugs. Indeed it was against the laws of ATP....but still...

Third, unlike athletics, performance enhancing drugs have little or NO role to play.

Fourth, during the period when Agassi was said to have doped, he was on the way down - ranked somewhere around 140s.

Fifth, Agassi has done enormous amount of social service- osmething even his most trenchant of critics have admitted. Moreover, he has all the money that he wants and the bucks he will make out of his book will be peanuts incomparison to what he already has. So we cannot even accuse him of "sexing" up his autobiography to sell his books.

Best regards :)

Raj said...

Molaga, all this may be true. But you cannot hold him as a beacon of honesty. I am repeating the point that if you do so, you would encourage me to lead a dishonest life till I am old, and then make amends by owning up, distributing my ill-gotten wealth to the poor,etc. A confession late in life may be described as cleansing of one's troubled soul, but cannot be described as an incredible act of honesty.

Molaga said...

Oh just to clarify.....

I have no qualms that Agassi is being blasted. Nor do I believe that he has become an Angel of virtues by admitting to his past mistakes.

Just that I think it is little overboard comparing him with a real life thug like Ramalinga Raju

Best regards.

ramesh said...

we all do things which we may regret later on, admitting guilt then is an attempt to come clean and becoming honest to one's conscience .. he certainly is not a beacon of honest but at least he had courage to come clean now .. and really how many public figures really expose their murky past so readily ..