TK has a new post up on Andre Agassi’s newly-revealed crystal meth habit. Even by the standards of the ‘shocking, tell-all biography’, Agassi’s new book Open seems like a pretty dramatic public self-depantsing. Even the awful signature hair turns out to have been fake– a big bantam rooster-like wig that once nearly fell apart before a big tournament match. One relatively small bit from the book that made a big impression on me: Aggasi spent his childhood basically imprisoned in brick tennis court that his authoritarian father had built, endlessly returning balls shot out of a homemade ball machine that Agassi called ‘the dragon’.
Of course, the full entertainment value of a lurid sports story lies not just the story itself but in the ripple effect of hammy sports writers straining to hit the right emotional notes. ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly – winner of something called the Damon Runyon Award for Sportswriting – submitted a column about the Agassi book with this deeply-felt gem: “Your own life is hard enough. Living somebody else’s life for them weighs on a man like a stone backpack.” A stone backpack? A stone backpack with stone books inside, even? Or how about a more tennis-related analogy: hitting stone tennis balls served up by a homemade stone tennis machine, all while wearing a decomposing stone wig?
Speaking of ham-fisted analogies, I’ve recently been in a bit of a New Order revival phase, listening to the two ‘Substance’ albums quite a bit. Along with a renewed appreciation of the music, I’ve also had an uncomfortable growing awareness that Bernard Summer is not exactly the world’s greatest lyricist. Consider ‘Thieves Like Us’- the song mentions love literally about 380 times, which is a bad sign in itself, but then advances the idea that “Love is the air that supports the eagle.” Yikes. Not only that, but it also “cuts your life like a broken knife.” (Broken knife? Why broken?) You have to appreciate New Order’s story – as Tony Wilson’s character in 24 Hour Party People says, no band survives the death of its lead singer. But it does seem as though when Ian Curtis took his life, he also somehow managed to strangulate the band’s ability to come up with a decent simile.
Then there’s ‘1963’, the one that goes ‘Johhhhhnyyyy… don’t point that gun at me‘. I was always puzzled by the lyrics and vaguely assumed they described some gay crime of passion, but then found a wikipedia entry about the song which explains that the lyrics are actually about ‘the JFK assassination, which occurred in 1963. In the song, Sumner sings from the point of view of Jackie Kennedy, and theorises that John F. Kennedy (a devout Catholic for whom divorce was unthinkable) paid the mobster Jack Ruby to arrange for a hitman to take out his wife so that he could continue his relationship with actress Marilyn Monroe. It further theorises that Monroe committed suicide when she found out that the hired gun, Lee Harvey Oswald, had hit the wrong target. Oswald was, according to Sumner, then in turn assassinated by Ruby for causing his hitman business to go bust. Sumner’s theory is unlikely to be intended seriously, given that Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, over a year before the assassination took place. The producer Stephen Hague has referred to the song as ‘the only song about domestic violence you can dance to'”.
I emailed this entire inane paragraph to a friend who is an ardent New Order fan. His reply:
That new order story is the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard. The last quote makes we want to give away my record collection. I’ve actually been obsessing about it all day.