9/20/10 - winning

In today's excerpt - tennis superstar Andre Agassi wins Wimbledon, his first grand slam tournament and the pinnacle of achievement in his sport, and reports what many sports champions have reported before him—winning does not feel as good as losing feels bad, and fame is a surreality that quickly becomes ordinary:

"I'm supposed to be a different person now that I've won a slam. Everyone says so. No more Image is Everything. Now, sportswriters assert, for Andre Agassi, winning is everything. After two years of calling me a fraud, a choke artist, a rebel without a cause, they lionize me. They declare that I'm a winner, a player of substance,  the real deal. They say my victory at Wimbledon forces them to reassess me, to reconsider who I really am.

"But I don't feel that Wimbledon has changed me. I feel, in fact, as if I've been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing. Now that I've won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn't feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn't last as long as the bad. Not even close. ...

"In 1992, however, [life] suddenly becomes more complicated. ... People appear from nowhere, requesting my picture, demanding my autograph, seeking my attention or opinion. Wimbledon has made me famous. I thought I was famous long ago—I signed my first autograph when I was six—but now I discover that I was actually infamous. Wimbledon has legitimized me, broadened and deepened my appeal, at least according to the agents and managers and marketing experts with whom I now regularly meet. People want to get closer to me; they feel they have that right. I understand that there's a tax on everything in America. Now I discover that this is the tax on success in sports—fifteen seconds of time for every fan. I can accept this, intellectually. ...

"Fame is a force. It's unstoppable. You shut your windows to fame and it slides under the door. I turn around one day and discover that I have dozens of famous friends, and I don't know how I met half of them. I'm invited to parties and VIP rooms, events and galas where the famous gather, and many ask for my phone number, or press their numbers on me. In the same way that my win at Wimbledon automatically made me a lifetime member of the All England Club, it also admitted me to this nebulous Famous People's Club. My circle of acquaintances now includes Kenny G, Kevin Costner, and Barbra Streisand. I'm invited to spend the night at the White House, to eat dinner with President George Bush before his summit with Mikhail Gorbachev. I sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom.

"I find it surreal, then perfectly normal. I'm struck by how fast the surreal becomes the norm. I marvel at how unexciting it is to be famous, how mundane famous people are. They're confused, uncertain, insecure, and often hate what they do. It's something we always hear—like that old adage that money can't buy happiness—but we never believe it until we see it for ourselves. Seeing it in 1992 brings me a new measure of confidence."


Andre Agassi


Open: An Autobiography


Alfred A. Knopf a division of Random House, Inc.


Copyright 2009 by AKA Publishing, LLC


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