on July 14, 2004
John McEnroe is one of the all- time greats in the game of tennis. Bursting on the scene in the late 1970's, McEnroe brought a new dimension to the sport. He relives some of his greatest sports moments in this book, "You Cannot be Serious".
McEnroe was known for his legendary temper, and he explains to readers how he got this way and why he continued to blow his top from time to time. He admits, in retrospect, that he went too far more than once, but he stops short of completely apologizing for his on- court antics. Among other reasons, he points out that the promoters of professional tennis quietly encouraged his behavior. They didn't necessarily think it was the best way to act, but they also knew that McEnroe's bad boy image helped increase the popularity of the sport.
McEnroe talks about more than just tennis in this book. He also covers his tumultuous marriage with actress Tatum O'Neil; his encounters with rock and roll superstars; his second marriage to pop singer Patty Smythe; and his present- day occupation as a tennis announcer and commentator. McEnroe lays his heart on the line in this book, letting the reader know exactly how he felt about different players in the game and the women in his life.
Even though I like John McEnroe, both the man and the player, there are a few negative points to make about this book. First of all, there's the editing job by James Kaplan. There are some poorly- worded sentences throughout the pages and there are too many exclamation marks and colons in places where they are not necessary. Second, McEnroe's ego could be hard for some readers to stomach. He brags on himself and always seems to have an excuse to explain why he lost certain key matches.
Overall, this is still a fun book to read, in spite of its flaws. It could have been better with some more thought and effort, but it still makes for an enjoyable read. McEnroe lets you know exactly how he feels about the sport of tennis, the various personalities involved, and his own personal relationships. He's very serious, and he wants you to understand where he is coming from and where he is going.
on May 20, 2004
I am a HUGE tennis fan. My tennis memories stretch back to seeing Rod Laver (one of McEnroe's idols) battle Ken Rosewall. Growing up I often played tennis during the summer at a local park. I continue to play today and I go to the US Open for a couple of daytime matches every year. I don't watch tennis on TV the way I once did. During the late 70's and early eighties, anytime Borg or McEnroe were playing a match, against each other or against other opponents, I made sure to watch the event. My allegiance was originally with Borg, because of his speed covering the baseline, his two-handed backhand, his european background, and his quiet dignity. No one ever played the baseline like Borg. All McEnroe did was change the way tennis was played. He combined foot speed (which he credits to playing soccer), hand speed, hand-eye coordination, with the best serve and volley game in tennis. This made him virtually unstoppable when he was in the zone. In terms of pure tennis skill, no one else came close to McEnroe during his prime. Because he was left-handed, his first serve, which angled almost into the stands on some occasions, drew opposing players very far off the actual playing court. IF they were able to return his serve, McEnroe would simply rush the net,pick and choose where the ball would go in the open court, and either volley, half volley, or drop volley the ball to a wide open court.Fortunately, McEnroe does credit many people along the way with helping him improve his game. However, he was hampered by so many emotional problems I found it difficult to watch him. McEnroe talks about his problems during this period. His family, in particular his father, was a source of tremendous conflict for McEnroe. Borg was his alter-ego because of his ability to move laterally and horizontally with cat-like quickness. Together they played some of the finest tennis matches ever seen. McEnroe talks quite movingly about his experiences with Borg, his Davis Cup appearances, and other tennis-related aspects of his life. In 1985 I stayed up until four o'clock in the morning to watch Johnny Mac and Peter Fleming play against Guillermo Vilas in Davis Cup. It was the GREATEST doubles match I have ever witnessed, and one of the greatest sporting events I have ever seen on TV. They played in front of an Argentine crowd which was so anti-American and anti-McEnroe, I thought there would be a riot during the match. But Mac and Fleming were victorious. Afterwards, McEnroe and Fleming were interviewed on TV while they drank Heinekens. How many TV interviews have you seen where the athlete is drinking a beer? Say what you will about his behavior, he remains an individual in professional tennis. He is filled with conflicts which he discusses at length. He played Davis Cup for his country whenever he was asked, yet he exhibited behavior on the court which gave new life to the phrase "ugly american".
I have not always been a big McEnroe supporter. I thought tennis was a game where your emotions were kept in reserve while you battled your opponent, akin to chess. For that reason, and others, I never really enjoyed the theatrical aspect of McEnroe, or Connors, or Nastase throwing fits on the court. Give me a five match epic without much histrionics thrown in, and I am a happy camper.I still dislike Connors and Nastase, and after reading this book, my impressions are unlikely to change. In this book Connors comes across as self-absorbed, opportunistic, and somewhat dull away from the tennis court. McEnroe openly discusses his family, tennis, even the impact of 9/11/01. He is forthcoming about his problems, and displays a fairly high level of awareness than other athlete-turned-authors. The only reason I gave this book four stars instead of five is because I had just finished reading a biography of Vince Lombardi, written by David Maranis. The Lombardi bio is quite possibly the best sports bio I have ever read. This one is very good, but it pales somewhat next to the work of a seasoned journalist like Maranis. If you are a tennis fan, or a fan of Johnny Mac then you should find this book very appealing.
on October 20, 2003
If you call yourself a tennis enthusiast, suffice to say you're not one in my book if you haven't read You Cannot Be Serious. The always irreverent Johnny Mac takes the reader behind the scenes of his meteoric and sudden rise to the top of the tennis world as a teenager as well as his difficult, if not tumultuous, ride down when he was married to Tatum O'Neal. McEnroe recounts many amusing anecdotes from his tennis days that make for an entertaining read. He tells the stories behing his not so secret disdain for the enigmatic Jimmy Connors(beginning with Connors' refusal to shake his hand prior to their first Wimbledon meeting in 1977 when McEnroe was an 18 year-old unseeded juniors player).
McEnroe reveals his propensity for smoking marijuana during his self-imposed hiatus from tennis in the mid 80's, the wild partying with the amiable Vitas Gerulaitis, the mutual camaraderie, unparalleled competition, and respect, of his nemesis and friend Bjorn Borg, the infamous longstanding feud with Connors, and his passion for, and unprecedented success, with Davis Cup. Johnny Mac tells of an offer of $1 Million from Donald Trump to play Venus that Venus turned down based on the somewhat dubious claim that she didn't want to play "an old man." McEnroe, ever the competitor, tells of his anger over Steffi's notorious default of their Wimbledon mixed doubles semi that left him calling her a rather choice name(female dog is a hint) in the locker room - strangely enough in the company of her future hubby Andre Agassi and his then coach Brad Gilbert. Good stuff.
on May 28, 2003
This book is so much fun to read. McEnroe is a unique individual. He is incredibly arrogant, neurotic, rude, self centered, and narcissic. He is also insightful, brilliant, artistic. He understands the game like few others. He also plays the game like few others. It all comes through perfectly well in this biography. Nothing in this book was surprising. It was all expectable Mac in your face stuff. And, it was so much fun.
On a more serious tone, Mac has a lot of smart wisdom to impart about the game, and the game's direction. He makes a lot of recommendation that make a lot of sense, but unfortunately are utopic. The most noteworthy of them, is that tennis should go back to wood racquets. I fully agree. Mac feels that the character of the game, and the associated skill requirement completely changed after that.
I don't know if anyone remembers the artistic, versatile styles of Adriano Panata, Ilie Nastase, Tom Okker, Manuel Santana. They all played with wood racquets. Their style of finesse and unpredictability is gone from the game. John McEnroe also emulated that style. Today, our only hope is Roger Federer who shows the versatility and talent of the past. Unfortunately, he rarely passes the first round in any Gran Slam tournaments, and gets worn down by some anonymous grunter.
on May 23, 2003
I consider John McEnroe to be the finest announcer in all of sport. His insights are keen; his humor at once good natured and dry; his enthusiasm contagious. Why James Kaplan elected to dilute Mac at his best I don't know. It could be, of course, that Mac himself is too blame. This autobio suggests, though, that while Mac would recognize that he might deserve such blame, his bluntness in such an admission should not be mistaken for his own allegiance to the position. In other words, he _suggests_ blame as an option, while at once offering more self-serving possibilities. The result of his repeated such strategy is a book that reads most obliquely. Somehow, Mac's obliqueness is not what I most wanted, or expected, from this far-too-cautious (political?) treatment. That he refuses to name drop (when it matters) and that he is downright elusive in terms of his own articulation of his own vices might be admirable--the busy reader may indeed deserve nothing more. But when combined with his failure to nail down his own positions regarding the very center of the book--himself--the result is evasive at best, and elitist or exclusive at worst. I opened the book ready to love Mac all the more having read it: In large part I expected to celebrate--truly celebrate--his mistakes, his faults, his shortcomings. Instead, I felt as if I was betrayed--locked out of any sense of who he really is. I could be wrong--he could, really, be the sort of guy who pulls punches, gives equal weight to contrary positions, and worries most about (a shallow) diplomacy. But I still doubt it.
on February 14, 2003
When I listen to John McEnroe as a tennis commentator I often wish that other former athletes were as candid and insightful as he is. I figured that his autobiography might provide similar insight and entertainment. I can't say that the book succeeds in this regard but it is still rather interesting and entertaining.
The quick summary is that McEnroe grew up in a comfortable environment as a child and was able to transform tennis talent into a life of celebrity and athletic greatness. He's bright and articulate but also rather shallow, extremely sensitive, somewhat self-centered, but has generally decent intentions.
For tennis fans and fans of McEnroe's, the book provides a nice recounting of his tennis career. I especially enjoyed reading about his personal impressions of some of his opponents including his disdain for Jimmy Connors, his relationship with doubles partner Peter Fleming and his strange respect and awe of Bjorn Borg.
The problem I have with the book is that in attempting to reveal his personal life with Tatum O'Neal and his current wife Patty Smyth, he doesn't do himself any favors in terms of image. He also doesn't reveal much about himself. In contrast we know how screwed up (in his mind) that Tatum O'Neal and her family are, but very little introspection on himself.
Indeed he even admits in the book that even in his playing days he rarely admitted that someone beat him. Instead, he had some sort of excuse for why he lost. In this book, he also has plenty of excuses for some of his "losses" off the court and gives off the impression that he would be fine to share a few beers with, but would be awful to have as a friend.
In short, if you were a tennis fan when McEnroe, Connors, Vilas, and Borg were the stars, read this book. Otherwise, it's kind of interesting but you could spend your time better elsewhere.
on January 25, 2003
This is extremely disappointing for me as I don't feel that I get anything out of this book. The beginning of the book which I find most interesting deals with how John McEnroe began his tennis career and a little background information about himself. It also depicts the life of a young tennis player, the expectations and pressure that he had to deal with. Also somewhat interesting was the politics of tennis, the importance of ranking and in general the world of tennis players. However, three quarters of the book deals with the career of McEnroe, detailing every match he had ever played. It can be extremely boring after 50 pages of the same thing and I think he should have only highlighted some of the more important matches of his career. I cannot but help feel that he seems to go into great length of matches that he won but mentioned briefly those that he lost. A reviewer said if you're not a tennis fan, this is not the book for you. However, I would like to say if you're not a McEnroe fan, you should definitely avoid this book.
As a tennis fan, I thought there would be more insights in this book but was brutally disappointed. If you are hoping to get motivations, personal struggle, rags to riches type stories, this will not be the book. The book is shallow and personally, I find myself not respecting McEnroe as much as I did before I read his book. I have to agree with another reviewever that he seems to find excuses in what seems like everything such as his divorce to his first wife, lost matches, fines, etc.
on January 9, 2003
If you've only seen McEnroe as a commentator on USA, NBC , or CBS, then you might be intrigued by his brash, bold, and sometimes brutally honest analysis of a given match or player. Quite simply, McEnroe knows so much about the tennis industry that he is invaluable to the coverage of the four Majors, particularly Wimbledon and the U. S. Open. I think that he is the premiere sports "color" guy, regardless of the sport. Considering how many of his on-court antics have become famous (or infamous), even to non-fans of tennis, his personal life doesn't have quite the mystique that it would seem to potentially have. Or maybe McEnroe just doesn't want to (or can't) explain his behavior. One of the reviews said that he does too much "justifying" of his behavior to be sincere or apologetic or still in-your-face, and that is a very good characterizing of this book.
The first third or so of the book tells of his youth tennis days, his rise to national attention, his college days, and his early Wimbledon tournaments, particularly his semi-final run in 1977. He then goes into almost excruciating detail of certain matches over the next few years as he rose to become the #1 player in the world. We know what he was thinking point by point, and each instant takes on great significance. If I were not such a huge tennis fan, I would have found this colossally boring. However, I was a huge Bjorn Borg fan growing up, and McEnroe spends a great deal of time exploring and trying to explain one of the most intense "could-have-been" great rivalries in all of sports. Borg left the scene, and McEnroe had to settle for Connors, Lendl, and Wilander in subsequent years.
He goes into some detail about his marriage to Tatum O'Neill, their difficulties, and their ultimate demise as a couple. He is very stuck between loving the spotlight one moment and blaming that fame for all of his life's difficulties in others. I don't know if he was going for sympathy, but I found it hard to feel terribly sorry for him.
Later chapters talk about his Davis Cup experiences, particularly as captain, his relationship with his current wife and kids, and his career as a seniors player. He offers a few details about his "career" as a rock star and his interest in the art world. I didn't read much that I hadn't known already, and I would love to have learned more about his gallery experiments.
Bottom line: If you know McEnroe only casually from the occasional glimpse on TV, this book will bore you to tears--rent a video of tennis bloopers and see his "You cannot be serious!" line from Wimbledon. I'm a fan (although I liked Borg much better), so I enjoyed it. McEnroe is obviously a complicated personality who has lived a fairly complicated life. He does his best to explain both. He also is as smart as all-get-out, so he is careful not to tell too much or too little--he's always straddling that elusive line. His commentary during the tournaments is much more entertaining, enlightening, and insightful--he knows what he thinks of certain players, rules, and situations, and he will certainly not hesitate to tell a national audience on live television. This book is just another piece of that puzzle.
on November 28, 2002
I bought this book mainly because i was in love with Tennis and always wondered what made john mcenroe lose it on the court. Tho i was too young to watch him during his peak years, he always facinated me and would watch his recorded matches a lot.
In this book he reveals the emotions of each of those matches and points, and it was a real pleasure. You can never hate him, but you can never be his greatest fan. what you would admire in the book is his honesty. His passion for life, family and game of tennis is very admirable. A great living legend but still a human being with emotions and anxieties just like u and me.
His patriotism is irreplaceable.
Definitely he puts in a lot of humour into the book also.
To compare the game of the williamses with the college professionals that was uncalled for.
To enjoy this book you really need to know in and out of tennis, the legends, the matches, the controversial points.......
But for a tennis fan, this is the best treat
Thankyou and Kudos for a great book
on November 9, 2002
When McEnroe was a freshman at Stanford I was in my last year of graduate school there. He joined the top ranked college tennis team and became the star as a freshman. He led Stanford to another national championship and an undefeated season. Then he turned pro after his freshman year. This was disappointing at Stanford but should have been expected. Before arriving on the scene at Stanford he made a miraculous run at Wimbledon reaching the semi-finals as a junior tennis player! All this and more is discussed in detail in this book.
This book basically takes a not too serious look at McEnroe's life, how he was involved in sports at an early age and actually liked team sports such as basketball better than tennis. His natural patriotism explains why he played Davis Cup so much and encouraged others to do the same.
Much of the book deals with his childhood friendships and his ascension in the tennis ranks all the way through his run as the number 1 player in the world. He describes many of his classic matches and you get a glimpse of what was going on in his mind during his great victories at Wimbledon and agonizing defeats (e.g. Lendl at the French Open).
Part of the reason for writing the book was to give the reader an inside look at what was going on during his infamous tirades on the tennis court. He reveals his New York upbringing and his inability to control his temper. Later on in the book we get to see some of the personal side. Inspite of the stormy divorce to Tatum O'Neal, John does not display animosity toward her in this book and he actually accepts part of the blame for the break-up. But he definitely wants to dispell the notion that he tried to hold her back in her acting career in favor of her supporting his tennis.
You also get a glimpse at his second and apparently very successful marriage to the rock star Patty Smyth. You also see how his attempts at leading his own rock group caused some turmoil in that marriage.
McEnroe is a very intelligent and complex person. His intelligence and tennis skills are often overlooked or played down by tennis fans because of his notorious cry baby attitude that he displayed so prominently on the court. His tantrums were accepted and tolerated by tennis officials because of his great success and the interest it brought to tennis. But he was a poor role model that others copied. He was not the first though. Remember Ille Nastase!
McEnroe seems to be much more content these days. He has been a successful tennis commentator and received the honor of being named the US team's Davis Cup captain and was elected into the Tennis Hall of Fame. These were obviously very satisfying achievements. Still it seems that he wrote this book to help change his public personna. He is not happy with his bad boy image and by writing this book and hosting a TV quiz show he hopes to show a different side of him as he reconstructs his image. He has a very good sense of humor that comes through in the book as well as in some of his recent TV commercials.