Interview by James Sullivan
Summer 2011. By Phone.
Article appeared in the Boston Globe.
David Gerlach: Do you remember Andre Agassi’s mullet? It was amazing. Long. Flowing. Easily one of my favorite mullets of all time. But you know, I had never actually heard Agassi talk about The Mullet, actually say the word “mullet.” That’s until James Sullivan sent us the interview he did with Agassi by phone back in 2011. It was for a short Q&A that ran in the Boston Globe. Here’s Agassi.
Andre Agassi: What better way to mask who you really are than wearing a mullet, right?
David Gerlach: One of my favorite quotes to stumble across. And that is how we begin this episode of Blank on Blank.
[Sound clip of Agassi’s Canon ad: “What is the image of a rebel?]
David Gerlach: Agassi went through a very public transformation during his tennis career: from young bad boy to a much more mellow pro. And in this raw recording, we get a glimpse into just how it happened, how he says he became his true self. Agassi was on the fast track to a tennis career from an early age, and now parents ask him about getting their kids into sports. Here’s Agassi’s response.
Andre Agassi: What my advice would be: Make sure you define success in a healthy manner because every decision after that will be a result of that first decision. And if you define it wrong, if you define it with how much money you’re going to make, how good you’re going to be, you will make a lot of bad decisions. What I would love to see people do is to expose their children to all sorts of experiences. That’s ultimately, I think, what creates the peace a mind in a child’s heart: when they’re able to explore their passions. And a parent that predetermines what that passion is going to be is probably off to the wrong start.
[Music: Air – “J’ai Dormi Sous”]
Andre Agassi: I have always had a desire to impact people. It’s been misdirected for a healthy chunk of my life. Early on I impacted people at the academy in a negative way growing up. But nevertheless, it was important to me to somehow impose my experiences on others. As I learned how to channel that in a more positive direction, I found a great deal of reward.
[Music: “J’ai Dormi Sous” continues]
Andre Agassi: Stop worrying about where you are and start making sure that your experience is more of what you want it to be. That is how I approached my tennis and that’s one of the reasons why I played so long. Because I did focus on tomorrow being better than today. I regret a lot of things. At the same time I wouldn’t change one thing. So it’s an interesting way to look at it. I’m regretful for everybody that I made to feel less than they deserve at any stage along the way including the sport of tennis. But overall it was a journey that I obviously had to go through, and it’s a journey that I continue to go through. Every day you grow to understand yourself better, you push yourself to be better.
[Music: Myslovitz – “Theme from the Road Movie”]
Andre Agassi: You know, I’ve lived pretty transparently. For better or for worse, it’s been transparent. There were times I was confused. And I think the world was clear when they saw it. There were times I was angry. There were times I was scared. There were times I was confident. No matter how I felt, I couldn’t hide it. You know, I’ve said in the past, my eyes have betrayed me most of my life. I think that honesty is what connects you to people. That’s the connection; it’s living that transparency. I spent a lot of time—thousands and thousands of hours—trying to make sense of my contradictions, solve the calculus of my psyche. And I netted out realizing that quite often what I thought was truth wasn’t. Like when you tell someone “I do” and you find yourself divorced two years later, ten years later, did you lie when you said “I’ll love you until death do us part; I’ll be with you until death do us part”? Or did you actually believe it? Or is it possible you want to believe something so much you’ll try the rest of your life to make it true? I found myself doing that quite often through my career, but it was always a visceral reaction.
[Music: “Theme from the Road Movie” continues]
David Gerlach: So I was taking a listen to some vintage clips of Agassi on YouTube from his days training in Florida. And I came across this. Take a listen.
Andre Agassi: As far as life goes, even more importantly, every day challenge ourselves to be better than the person we were yesterday.
David Gerlach: I guess the true Agassi was there all along…right behind the mullet. Thanks to James Sullivan for bringing us this interview. He has a new book out. It’s called “Island Cup: Two Teams, Twelve Miles of Ocean, and Fifty Years of Football Rivalry.” It’s about high school football between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. It’s a great book. Check it out. Many thanks as well to Amy Drozdowska for producing this Blank on Blank with me. Our sound logo comes to us from Jeffrey Alan Jones. And for all the journalists, non-fiction authors and interviewers of all stripes out there, we want to hear your lost interviews. So drop us a line to email@example.com. Blank on Blank is distributed by the Public Radio Exchange, PRX.org. That’s all for now. I’m David Gerlach. Keep listening.
Photo: Carine 06 via Flickr
Music: Air “J’ai Dormi Sous” | Myslovitz “theme from the road movie”
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