But Seriously (McEnroe)

But Seriously - John McEnroe

I am quite sure that sometime in the past I read McEnroe's earlier venture into autobiography, "You Cannot Be Serious," even though I have no record of it. This volume picks up where that one leaves off, in the first few years of the current century, but with a certain amount of reminiscence to the part of McEnroe's career that tennis fans will understandably find most interesting - his active years battling Connors, Borg, Lendl etc. in the elite ranks. My memories of what McEnroe said about those famous contemporaries is dim, other than a strong sense of antipathy towards Lendl, and a great deal of respect, intermingled with rather obvious envy, towards Borg.


Two things other than chronology separate the two books. The first is, in his description of his private life, McEnroe is now describing what appears to be his much more successful second marriage to singer Patty Smyth. His first wife, Tatum O'Neal, is barely referred to at all. Secondly, while McEnroe will never come across as a miracle of self-effacing generosity, age does seem to have given him the gift of some self-awareness and he has always, I think, had that curious New York sense of humour that is mostly belligerence and brag, but has occasional undertones of self-deprecation. Smyth appears to be a strong character who can "handle" him, and he even gives her the pen in a couple of places to provide her own version of events.


McEnroe, through his commentary as well as guest spots or hosting duties in light American TV fare, has been enough in the public eye, and continued to associate enough with the name-droppable, still to have anecdotes that amuse and may have some resonance with those (like me) who are faintly aware of popular culture in general. I may, for instance, have known vaguely that, pre-politics, Donald Trump offered McEnroe some vast amount (the "best deal ever," no doubt) to play one of the Williams sisters. McEnroe sensibly declined.


If you want John McEnroe's opinions on anything to do with the current state of tennis, or the coverage of tennis - especially on the BBC, with which august entity he appears to have formed a surprisingly strong relationship - you will find them here. Doubles. Drugs. The women's game. Be patient and he'll give you a pronouncement (usually accompanied by some personal history). Less enthralling to me, because it's not a passion I share, are McEnroe's opinions on modern art, which he collects. Though I find it an interesting sidelight to his personality, I was a bit put off by his investor's (as opposed to appreciator's) mentality. But at the very least, this is confirmation that the man isn't just a dumb ex-jock.


Only of major interest if you are proof against a steady barrage of self-absorption, or are a die-hard McEnroe fan.