Serious by John McEnroe

I ended Gary Barlow’s book where he wrote about being on one of the trains involved in the 7th July bombings.

I started John McEnroe’s with September 11th. The amazing thing is, I didn’t even realise, or rather had never thought about the fact that McEnroe is a New Yorker. Of course now it seems obvious; how could I not know?

I picked the book up when I heard Chris Evans on the radio saying it was the best autobiography he had ever read, or words to that affect. I may have picked it up anyway of course, who knows. Most people talk about Lance Armstrong when they choose their favourite sports autobiography. I will still go with Sir Alex Ferguson of course followed by Ryan Giggs but this one was pretty damn close.

He was never my favourite tennis player of that era or any era since. My favourite was always Ivan Lendl who devastatingly did not win Wimbledon although he won so much else and seemed to be seeded in the top 2 for so long. However, I always enjoyed watching the brash New Yorker and tennis/Wimbledon has not been the same since he stopped playing in the regular tournaments. It’s fantastic he still plays in the Seniors and perhaps I will try and watch him in that but I ultimately stopped watching Wimbledon soon after these great players quit. It’s all about the fast serves now. I used to take the second week off work to watch all of it and made it to Wimbledon a few times. One of my favourite days ever was going to Wimbledon when they played for the first ever time on the middle Sunday because of the rain. All I wanted to do was see Lendl and I was delighted to catch his whole match on Court 1. However, a huge bonus was seeing both Navratilova and McEnroe on centre court as well as a young Pat McEnroe on court 203 (or something).

It gave me some comfort to know that The Mac thinks tennis isn’t as exciting as it was in those days although of course he would say that! It kind of gives me permission too not watch it when I used to be such an avid supporter. in the same way I don’t feel I need to watch the England football team – because they are rubbish. It’s way too dissapointing and heartbreaking.

The man’s arrogance shines through but as Samantha would say in Sex and the City, he has the goods to back it up. I look at it more positively as confidence and self-belief. What are you if you don’t have these two traits?

McEnroe does take a fair few humble credits for major events, wins, losses, retirements – all sorts of reactions including the way tennis has changed. I guess he certainly helped to put tennis on the mainstream agenda.

What shocked me was the amount of times he mentioned throwing games. They deliberately will lose one or 2 games in a set to make it last longer for the paying punters – only in exhibition games or friendlies, as we would call it in the football world.
Equally, I was disappointed that money was ever a motivation to get McEnroe out of bed. I guess he got used to playing for the big bucks so would play an exhibition match or go into the odd tour just for the money. Your outgoings sure go up when you buy multiple properties and have multiple children!

It thrilled me that Madonna crept into yet another autobiography. Apparently they shared the same trainer for a while and socialised with Mr & Mrs Penn. No Paula Yates in this one though.

It was also fantastic to learn that McEnroe was not only passionate about being The Greatest Tennis Player That Ever Lived and a wannabee rock star, but that he developed an interest in Art through a doubles partner whilst playing a tournament in Paris very early on. After retiring from professional tennis and starting his commentating career, this lead to him opening an art gallery in SoHo, New York. I’ll be sure to look that one up when I’m next there.

In an equal measure and by his own admission, The Mac was also selfish and put himself, and his career before anyone or anything else. As he says, if everyone puts you on a pedestal when you are number one in the world and does everything for you, wouldn’t you become selfish?

Just because you can?

The sort of things that people were prepared to do for him then even made McEnroe’s head spin.

He does come across as a hugely dedicated father – a role he clearly relishes. His kids may have calmed him down a little and forced him to change his priorities, but even when he tried to embark on a musical career (apparently tennis pro’s, like top footballers, also just long to be rock stars) he still put himself first, knowing full well that it was his name and legacy rather than his musical ability or talent that people paid to see. Hell, I would pay to see that.

I can imagine, without it being documented, that this didn’t go down well with his second wife, Patty Smyth who was already established musician from the early 1980’s and now sat at home with 6 children watching her former tennis star husband, turned wannabee rock star go out on the road with the John McEnroe band. Eventually he changed the name to the Johnny Smith Band, in honour of his obviously talented wife and managed to get her on stage at one point.

However, eventually she told him he was rubbish (or words to that affect) and to let her get one with her job whilst he got on with is. He admits he knew who she was when he first spotted her across a crowded room at a Hollywood party (do they make this up?) and her musical talent and reputation was one of the things that attracted him but they so obviously make a great partnership and have a wonderful family life. I recall seeing her in the background at some documentary that included filming at their to-die-for 4 story apartment on Central Park West. I’ll be looking upwards next time I walk down that road.

I love the fact that The Mac is a fellow muso who really knows his stuff and just loves music. All credit to him for following his dream. He’s been on stage with some of his heroes, some legendary musicians and socialised with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Madonna. All because he was a Tennis ace. Good for him.

I quite liked McEnroe before and obviously he is a tennis legend and arguably one of the best tennis players ever – argued by him quite frequently in his own book (and no doubt by his nemesis, Jimmy Connors in his) but now I think he is just fabulous, and a New Yorker to boot.

I borrowed the book out of the library but by the time I had finished reading it, I wanted to buy it so I could own it. The sign of a good book for sure.
I guess as far as the book is concerned for the Super Mac – mission accomplished.
I’m a fan.

Inspiration Factor 8.5/10


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