No Ghost Writers

A look at a selection of recently released captivating sports autobiographies…

by: Taylor Belgheri

At surface level, storytelling and swinging golf clubs don’t have much in common. While athletes are widely adored by the general public, fans are accustomed to seeing a Hollywood-level retelling of the life and trials of their favorite stars. In the realm of the autobiography, few athletes have chanced telling their own story in an authentic way. Many crave to see the inner workings of a mind like Michael Jordan’s or Lance Armstrong’s, but few athletes have the time to develop a narrative voice. However, there are a few sport stars who have taken pen to paper and managed to create something that’s legible, exciting, and even a bit literary. Let’s take a look…

Behind the Mask: My Autobiography by Tyson Fury

British professional boxer Tyson Fury’s autobiography, Behind The Mask, is currently the UK’s best-selling boxing book that presents readers with an uncensored look at his rags-to-riches career trajectory. For those who don’t follow boxing, Fury is a heavyweight boxing champion who has yet to lose in his 30-match career. Sites that offer odds and picks for sports betting currently offer odds on the so-called Gypsy King, who’s set to face Deontay Wilder soon. For emotional context on the rivalry between Fury and Wilder, pick up Behind the Mask today. Even if you don’t follow boxing, it’s a raw tale of a lifestyle not many can relate to, told in a voice not many have heard.

 

Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream by Ben Ryan

Ben Ryan’s Sevens Heaven is written by a rugby coach who takes on the odyssey of a lifetime when he abandons his position in the UK to coach Fiji’s national rugby team. The tale covers the country’s rise through the ranks to take a Gold Medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. However, it’s Ben Ryan’s heartfelt voice and touching insights that give this novel texture and depth. What could easily become a European’s meandering journey in a strange new land becomes a fascinating lens to reinvestigate the sport of rugby. Fans of culture and history will also find this book a satisfying adventure that explores sports, personal growth, and teamwork.

 

The Breakaway: My Story by Nicole Cooke

Named the Sunday Times Sport Book of the Year when it was published, cyclist Nicole Cooke’s The Breakaway is as much about personal struggle and crossing gender lines in sports as it is about cycling. Much like Ryan’s tales from Fiji, Cooke’s journey toward the London Olympics doesn’t just include the ins and outs of becoming an elite athlete. Instead, she focuses on the trials she faced as a woman in a male-dominated sector. Though Cooke’s voice may not be as flashy as Fury’s, it provides an emotional arc that readers are used to seeing in fiction. Her journey is marked by grit and determination, but the book itself is a smooth ride.

 

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

As one of the most followed celebrity athletes, it was no surprise when tennis legends Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open, became an international bestseller. After all, the star had spent years building a prolific career on the tennis court only to spiral quick and hard. Here, readers are allowed a sneak peek into the raw voice that’s behind one of the world’s greatest athletic talents. Much like Fury in Behind the Mask, Agassi is able to take readers to the underbelly of their drive — and it’s an intense place. While Agassi doesn’t perform any narrative feats in his autobiography, he sticks to one of the most tried-and-true writing devices: honesty. Though a person’s prose may be lacking, a short, honest sentence has a tendency to snap the reader’s focus back into place and forgive smaller mistakes. Take this line, for instance, “I play tennis for a living, even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion, and always have.” Looks like Agassi should’ve been a writer.

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