miercuri, 11 noiembrie 2009

O sinucidere si o autobiografie - Ridicarea mastilor

Portarul nationalei de fotbal germane, Robert Enke, s-a sinucis ieri. Avea numai 32 de ani. Se pare ca suferea de mai multi ani de depresie, unul din motivele agravarii acesteia fiind acela ca fetita lui murise in 2006, din cauza unui defect congenital al inimii, la varsta de doi anisori. In luna mai a anului curent, el si sotia lui adoptasera o fetita de 2 luni. Oare exista vreun surogat pe lumea asta pentru propriul copil pierdut? Dar pentru propriul suflet ratacit? Oh, Doamne... Odihneasca-se in pace amandoi!

Am citit ca foarte putini oameni cunosteau zbaterile acestui tanar care nu a mai putut sa se ascunda, dar nici sa mai suporte durerile sufletesti. I-a fost teama sa se trateze psihologic, fiindca nu voia sa se "interpreteze" asta ca semn de slabiciune si sa-si pericliteze cariera sportiva. Un alt fotbalist care declarase public in 2003 ca sufera de depresii si vrea sa se trateze, Sebastian Deisler, a fost nevoit sa-si incheie cariera in 2007, fiindca nu s-a putut reintegra in lumea fotbalistica.

Ce lume trista e asta! Sa renunti la viata pentru ca nu mai poti purta o masca si te temi de dezaprobarea "lumii" ca s-o dai jos! Sa te simti atat de singur, neiubit si neinteles incat sa nu mai vezi nici o alta cale de iesire decat sa te arunci in fata unui tren...

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O cu totul alta varianta a eliberarii de masca o intalnim la Andre Agassi, care tocmai si-a publicat autobiografia sportiva cu titlul sugestiv OPEN.

Jos palaria, demult n-am mai citit un interviu atat de personal si autentic precum cel de mai jos. Va las sa va convingeti singuri si ma duc sa-mi comand cartea ;-))

'I Really Hated Tennis'

Tennis legend Andre Agassi recently published "Open," a no-holds-barred memoir of growing up to become a reluctant champion. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Agassi speaks about how his father forced him to play a sport he never liked, how he used fake hair and crystal meth, and how his wife -- Steffi Graf -- has brought this high-flyer down to Earth.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Agassi, is it possible for a happy person to win Wimbledon?
Andre Agassi: For me, it's hard to imagine.
SPIEGEL: Roger Federer seems to actually enjoy playing.
Agassi: Yes, maybe. But, in my world, this is impossible. The maximum were short moments of peace during a match which we, the players, used to call "the Zone." But you couldn't plan it. It was never constant. And it went by very fast.
SPIEGEL: Does a tennis professional have to be obsessed? Must there be some kind of trauma for him or her to be good?
Agassi: While I was winning Wimbledon, I felt like I would die. I feared to fail; I feared embarrassment.
SPIEGEL: Are you and your wife, Steffi Graf, similar in this regard?
Agassi: Oh, no, there are a lot of differences. Stefanie is much more secure, much clearer and stronger than me.
SPIEGEL: Could you learn something from her?
Agassi: The way she faces and confronts her fears, how she lives the way she wants to live -- I did not know this was possible. She was the one to show me, with her life, how to care about something every day. This, too, was new to me. Or, in sports, she told me: "Stop thinking; it's about feeling."
SPIEGEL: What did she mean?
Agassi: You have to be so conditioned, so practiced, that your thinking is removed, and you're just reacting intuitively, without constantly questioning everything. I'm a thinker by nature, much too complicated. My father tried to forbid thinking, and I tried to analyze my thinking away. Nobody ever said anything about feeling. Stefanie taught me that you have to be patient with yourself, you have to just let go. She taught me not to stand in my own way. I became famous so fast; but, in some ways, I grew up so slow.
SPIEGEL: Both of you were drilled by fathers who wanted to control everything.
Agassi: What is right is that both of us were in our fathers' hands. I told a lot of people that I hated tennis -- seriously and strongly hated it -- and they all tried to talk me out of it: "Ah, that is not right, Andre; in fact you love tennis, don't you?" Do you want to know what Stefanie said: "Don't we all?"
SPIEGEL: Did you tell each other the stories of your sufferings?
Agassi: I was the better talker; she was the better listener. But we did not have to explain everything.
SPIEGEL: You knew?
Agassi: We both knew a lot, yes. But there is a very significant difference between us: Stefanie wanted to play tennis, it was her decision; and I did not, but I had to. For me it was the wrong life; it was not mine.
SPIEGEL: In Germany, Peter Graf has been seen as a diabolical father who stole his daughter's childhood.
Agassi: But it wasn't like that. It was her choice. Stefanie did not have to give up her family or her childhood, whereas I was sent to a training academy in Florida. And, from that moment on, I had no friends and no mom anymore. No, this story and this image are wrong. Of course, sometimes she was sick of it; but, in general, she loved the sport she happened to be great at.
SPIEGEL: Your father, Emmanuel, is an Armenian-Iranian immigrant, who speaks five languages…
Agassi: … and none of them fluently. He mixes letters: "Vork your wolley!"
SPIEGEL: A violent man?
Agassi: Yes, very much so. And choleric. He used to have an axe handle in the car and sometimes a pistol. I was there when he knocked people unconscious with whom he had gotten into stupid debates about who had had the right-of-way.
A Fight Between Fathers
SPIEGEL: How does he actually get along with Peter Graf?
Agassi: They only met once; they were standing in our garden. Peter had just told my dad that he should have taught me Steffi's slice and that I would have been even better. And then my dad said: "Bullshit. Steffi should have learned Andre's two-handed backhand, and she would have won 32 Grand Slam finals." Suddenly they were in front of each other, shadowboxing. Peter is funnier and more subtle, so I was not worried about him when he said: "I'll knock you out." I was worried about my dad because I knew how he normally reacted to things like that. Peter actually took off his shirt. It was surreal.
SPIEGEL: Two former boxers, I guess.
Agassi: And I had to step in. Luckily, Stefanie was not there.
SPIEGEL: Is it true that, as a child, you had a mobile of tennis balls hanging above your bed?
Agassi: Yes. And, from my look, my father claims he could tell how gifted I was.
SPIEGEL: Did you ever get beaten up?
Agassi: Yes.
SPIEGEL: And there really was the ball machine you called "The Dragon"?
Agassi: Yes -- 2,500 balls per day. One million per year were supposed to make me impossible to beat.
SPIEGEL: Did you ever receive any praise? Or was it all criticism?
Agassi: After three losses in three Grand Slam finals, I finally won -- against Goran Ivanisevic, in Wimbledon. When I called home and told my dad, he said: "How could you lose the fourth set?"
SPIEGEL: When you retired, you and your wife seemed to disappear into a quiet private life. Why did you have to write a book now? Did you miss the public stage?
Agassi: No, even though I have lived a public life, I am a private and shy person who has learned to find cover. The rebellion of my early years…
SPIEGEL: … when you drove a white Corvette and wore jeans on the court and did not go to Wimbledon because of the old men's rules…
Agassi: …were just my way of trying to disappear, nothing else.
SPIEGEL: You got killed in public for it.
Agassi: Very much so, right. Sportswriters wrote that I couldn't deliver. Then, there was the Canon commercial claiming "Image is everything," which stuck to me for years. To be permanently judged by colleagues, the media and the public was horrifying. And the worst was what Boris Becker said after beating me in the '95 Wimbledon semifinal: that nobody liked me, that I was an elitist, that tournament directors were giving me special treatment, and that I was not able to win on a windy outside court. It hurt, it was personal, and it left a deep wound.
SPIEGEL: Unlike Steffi Graf or yourself, Boris Becker seems to not have recovered from ending his career. He seems to be lost and an easy victim of the media. Ten years ago, feeling sorry for Boris would have been unimaginable. Do the two of you still have a relationship? Are there things you talk about?
Agassi: I like Boris, and if we had dinner today, we would both say that the unfriendly feelings we had for each other back then is long past and that we both talked like juveniles. But our lives are not connected anymore. We just see each other at various ceremonies on some center court every once in a while for three minutes. That's all.
SPIEGEL: For years, the rivalry between you and Pete Sampras was magical to a worldwide audience. Is there still a connection between the two of you?
Agassi: There is a lot of respect. I believe that, without Pete, I would have won more and learned less.
SPIEGEL: He appears to have been as driven as you were. He had to sleep in ice-cold rooms in total darkness. Was he obsessed or traumatized, as well?
Agassi: We were all driven. And, of course, there is something strange about tennis: Egocentric and narcissistic behavior can win; torture and the isolation of players may lead you to the top. Pete and I shared our life and our fate; we were together all year long. But we were lonely. If there was not the net separating us, there was a wall.
SPIEGEL: There were some players -- like Michael Chang -- whom you just couldn't stand.
Agassi: Well, yes, I didn't like him. He thanked God for his points! As if God would not have better things to do.
SPIEGEL: What about Jim Courier? Did he give you any respect?
Agassi: We grew up side-by-side in Nick Bollettieri's tennis camp, and both of us wanted to reach the top. When he beat me, he put on his running shoes and went jogging -- because playing Agassi, you didn't even sweat. Respect? No.
Why He Wrote 'Open'
SPIEGEL: You were called arrogant.
Agassi: I know, but the truth is that I did not know who I was. I was afraid of losing, of the blame and the jokes, of the public and of my father. I really hated tennis.
SPIEGEL: Then why did you write this book?
Agassi: I felt like I had a lot of things to say. I felt that there are a lot of people who wake up in a life they didn't choose. There's a lot of grown-ups that are in a marriage they don't want to be in. There's a lot of teenagers trying hopelessly to understand themselves. And I felt a book could be a platform to give people hope, inspiration and the tools to better their life.
SPIEGEL: Isn't that a bit much? That sounds like a missionary's approach.
Agassi: Well, if I did not believe that people might learn a lot about me -- and maybe a lot about themselves -- through my story, I wouldn't have done it.
SPIEGEL: I guess you didn't need the money, did you?
Agassi: (laughs) I have a lot more to lose than to gain with what I've written. I put endorsements on the line, but also my reputation, my character -- or how it is perceived -- and some relationships. What do you think of the book?
SPIEGEL: It seems rare and special. Books by or about athletes usually just stay on the surface. They go from victory to victory and, along the road, you are served up cliched lessons like "Always focus on the next point." Your book is stronger: It reaches deeper, and it doesn't spare anyone.
Agassi: Yes, while I do not spare others, I certainly do not spare myself.
SPIEGEL: The Australian novelist Lily Brett once said: "If you write a book, you've got to write your heart out."
Agassi: You've got one chance to tell your story; you've got to give it all you've got. It's like in sports or when you are pregnant or when you become a father: You have to commit without fearing failure. I had no idea where this would lead me. I knew the different stories of my life but not the meaning, not the story of it all. I had the pearls but no idea what the necklace would look like.
SPIEGEL: Books on sports are usually a lot like cheating: There are five or six interviews, and then a ghostwriter sits down and pens something nice -- and everybody makes money.
Agassi: Maybe, but I wanted something different. When I went into retirement three years ago, I was reading this book called "The Tender Bar" and rationing its pages because it was giving me an escape from a lot of the feelings I was going through. It was so powerful. I wondered if my life -- looked at through a literary lens -- could impact somebody the way this book impacted me. What would my life look like through a real deep analytical view of my psyche and my contradictions?
SPIEGEL: So you approached Moehringer without an advance payment or a publishing contract?
Agassi: Yes, I reached out to this author, J.R. Moehringer, and he did not want to do it. He was flattered and honored, but he didn't seem to think this was something that could work. Then we just started talking anyway. After a while, we started taping the conversations; and, from there, it just went on. We had the tapes transcribed and organized; it was several hundred hours. We read old news stories, watched the old videos, and talked to people who had been on this journey with me. J.R. wrote the first draft. Then we set down together and formed the story. It took eight versions and over three years.
Fake Hair and Crystal Meth
SPIEGEL: You write about using drugs.
Agassi: But there are two sorts of drugs: First, there is doping -- performance-enhancing drugs. And I know that, in tennis, they test you extremely often. This sport is clean. Then, there are other drugs that do not help you perform better. In my case it was crystal meth, but there are other drugs, like cocaine. And if athletes are being tested positive, we should not blame them. We have to discuss this because we should help them, because maybe they are suffering.
SPIEGEL: Does your wife like "Open"?
Agassi: Let us put it this way: She is a very, very private person.
SPIEGEL: That's why I am asking.
Agassi: I think, first off, she trusts me a lot. And she knows that if I do this, I will make sure that I maintain and protect what's important to her. But she also has a tremendous amount of love and respect and support for me. And she could tell that this was a story that I needed to tell, that it was important to me.
SPIEGEL: Was she surprised?
Agassi: Nothing in the book surprises her, except the parts that surprised even me.
SPIEGEL: Which are…
Agassi: …which are what and how big my contradictions are. Which are how big my fears really were. Which are how one decision leads to others in your life and what that arc really looks like, how it all makes sense and becomes a story.
SPIEGEL: Was she afraid of being pushed back into the media spotlight?
Agassi: You cannot push Stefanie anywhere. She doesn't go where she doesn't want to go. This is one of the things that I envied about her and one of the things that I wanted from her before I even met her. I wanted to know this person who was how I wanted to be, somebody who knew herself so clearly, without doubts or hesitations.
SPIEGEL: That really sounds like an enormously strong person.
Agassi: Very, very strong. And she's lived a very powerful life, like I have. It's been high stakes, heavy pressures, high expectations in the world, people you take care of, people that count on you. And, unlike me, she's done it with grace.
SPIEGEL: Were you frightened by people who gave you orders, like your dad or Nick Bollettieri?
Agassi: Yes, and I felt like I was always imitating. I was always searching. I was always unsure. I needed educators. I needed people to teach me. I put a team around me that taught me every day.
SPIEGEL: Your clan had a bad image for being "snobs" and "arrogant."
Agassi: No, the people who taught me were nice and smart.
SPIEGEL: How does retirement feel at the age of 39?
Agassi: Free. I was liberated. I never missed tennis. I never liked the competition. I never liked the pressure I put on myself. I never liked that I couldn't be perfect at it. It felt like I had been created to never be satisfied. I resented how bad losing felt and how not good winning felt. It was never balanced. I could not escape this. When I retired, it was like the day I cut off my hair.
SPIEGEL: When you were younger and lost your hair, you experimented with artificial hair…
Agassi: Oh yeah, and I was embarrassed, a professional athlete who was afraid of moving because his hair might fall off. Brooke Shields, my first wife, told me: "Shave your head, it isn't important." And retirement felt similar, like a liberation. Everything -- the pressure, the physical pain -- was gone. And, instead, I could actually see my children grow, whereas before, I hadn't really noticed.
SPIEGEL: But is this really true? During your last year on tour, people admired you and cheered for you. The US Open was Agassi territory.
Agassi: And I was finally able to enjoy and embrace it. But it wasn't until I took ownership of it; it wasn't until I made it my choice. I was grown-up, 27, and would have found the courage to quit. Now it was my decision: No, I won't stop, I will continue for a few years -- and play for myself. It changed everything. And when the school started to come into being, I started to realize that I was playing for my students. Then tennis gave me Stef, and when it gave me Stef, it started; the balance started to go from this resentment to these healthy things in life. Now, it was really worth it. And, yes, the end was really quite sad.
SPIEGEL: There are a lot of former athletes who suffer from being not as strong as they were when they were young. I assume there's nothing you can do as well as play tennis.
Agassi: No, I don't believe that. First of all, my school has 620 kids, and I believe I can build this school as well as I can play tennis. I believe you can change lives. You can find new directions. I never thought that tomorrow will be like yesterday.
SPIEGEL: Boris Becker, Michael Schumacher, Michael Jordan -- they all thought about coming back, or did come out of retirement.
Agassi: Possible. But not me. There are so many other athletes that I never identified with. I don't really watch sports; I don't get involved in sports; I don't really go to events. I don't understand a lot of my peers that talk about the lines being their safe place, being their escape. You know, for me, a rain delay meant more time that I could talk myself into the very anxieties and panic that I didn't want to deal with. I just wanted to get through it. These matches were hard -- and nothing else.
SPIEGEL: And how about Steffi Graf? Any comeback dreams?
Agassi: No. We are 40-years-old, have two children, eight and six. We've got a blessed and privileged life.
Fathers and Grandfathers
SPIEGEL: Did you find the courage to openly talk to your father about all this? Did you reach a new level or perhaps forgiveness?
Agassi: In my personal life, I've talked to him about all these things. There was a beautiful scene during my last US Open, in 2006. My back hurt. Then, a man comes out of the shadows, puts his arm on me, pulls me aside and tells me I have to quit, tells me I should just stop now because it was enough. He can't take seeing the pain any longer; he can't take seeing how much I'm going through, all the suffering. That's my father. And I see in his eyes, for the first time, that he actually hates tennis. He actually resents what it's taken, what he's watched me go through, how he's lived and died with every point.
SPIEGEL: Do you understand him even today?
Agassi: Yes, of course, but he was always proud of me. When I was seven, he told everybody that, one day, I would be number one. It actually is quite simple: My father is a man who didn't have choice in his own life. And, as a result, he wanted to give us the one thing he could: freedom for us to choose our life by giving us the American Dream. He associated choice with economics, and he wanted the fastest road to the American Dream for his kids. As a child, you don't see these subtleties. But when you are grown-up, you return and look at things differently. He's not a man of psychology; he's a man of discipline and work, tremendous loyalty and generosity. These days, we spend our weekends with the grandparents.
SPIEGEL: There is a very sad scene in the book when you try to embrace him, and he stands still, unable to move.
Agassi: We did not do these kinds of things. We never touched each other, and we never said "I love you." Today, we do all these things.
SPIEGEL: Did he ever say he was sorry?
Agassi: He doesn't feel like there is anything to be sorry for; he's proud because everything he did helped make me a champion. There is real pride -- "You're damn right, and I'd do it again."
SPIEGEL: Did he read the book?
Agassi: He won't read it. He told me he's not going to read it. He said it two years ago, last year and yesterday. As he puts it: "What the hell do I have to read your book for? I was there. I know what you did; I know what I did. I don't like to read, anyhow." He also says that it was tennis that destroyed our relationship for years -- not him, not his decisions. He would do it all over again. But, today, I would have to play golf -- and then become the best golfer on Earth.
SPIEGEL: What sports do your children play?
Agassi: Jaz, my daughter, plays tennis three times a week. She does not want to play more often, and we don't push her. And Jaden, my son, plays baseball, which I love because it's healthy. It's a team sport, but it's an individual sport, too. There are very few sports where you are on a team but yet, for that one moment, it's all you, no excuses.
SPIEGEL: Is he good?
Agassi: He is. He's playing with kids two years older than him, and he's hanging with them and doing great.
SPIEGEL: Do you practice with him?
Agassi: Coach and practice and play with him.
SPIEGEL: Are you proud?
Agassi: Very. He's an amazing spirit, my son. I learn from him every day -- about being a professional at something in your life. I think you kind of ask the basic question, which is: Does he have anything that stands out? And you try to be objective. In baseball, you need fast feet or you need a fast arm, or you need great eye-hand coordination. And he has a pretty fast arm and he has great eye-hand, and his feet are good, not great. And so, if it's nurtured, it's fair to say he has a chance. But that's all you need in life: choices and opportunity.
SPIEGEL: Do you force him to play?
Agassi: No. Stefanie teaches him German, which is more important to us.
SPIEGEL: Do you ever play tennis with your wife?
Agassi: We go out occasionally; and when we do, we enjoy it. I enjoy it if she doesn't make me run. If she hits it to me, I'm happy; and if I make her run, she's happy. She likes the exercise; I just like to hit the ball.
SPIEGEL: After ending her career, your wife wanted to live in either New York or San Francisco. How did you manage to move her to Las Vegas?
Agassi: Her mom is here regularly, and her brother is living here with four kids. And my family is here, too. Life came here first, I would say; we just followed. Her mom was basically alone in Florida and wanted to be closer. And Vegas was a beautiful opportunity for her because she's a single grandma, and you can actually go out to dinner in Vegas alone and not feel uncomfortable, and you can actually have your friends want to come visit -- or use Vegas as an excuse to come visit -- so she could see a lot of people throughout her life periodically. My foundation started to grow dramatically, and my business is here. And, then, Steffi's brother decided to move out. My brother is here with his daughter, so there are seven cousins every weekend together. There are places that are more beautiful in the world, like Germany, but the truth is that beauty is in between life. And regarding Stefanie, I would say that she loves me very much; she loves the family and our extended family. And as a result, she loves our life.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Agassi, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.
Interview conducted by Klaus Brinkbäumer

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