What's the deal with these Jock books? You play baseball for about an inning and a half, and then—bang!—you write about your long and varied career. I don't get it. Albert Einstein lived 76 relatively interesting years and never penned his autobiography; Jennifer Capriati will have a trilogy of her life out before she's old enough to vote. I hear Joe Theismann is currently working on an addendum to his vast literary efforts, to be called The ESPN Years. What's next out there, a Lenny Dykstra novella?
The autobiography is a relatively new art form. My research reveals that up until 1969, 13 autobiographies had been written; now the New York Mets alone have doubled that number. There's such a glut of jock kiss-and-sells on the market, bookstores are taking classics like The Iliad off the shelves to make room for the next shipment of The Phil McConkey Story. Teams would be doing American culture a favor if they would include a no-autobiography clause in standard player contracts—$1 million extra if you promise not to write a book, $1.2 million if you promise not to write one with Phil Pepe or Maury Allen.
Indeed, these jocks don't even write these books, and apparently they don't read them either. They get some reasonably attentive sportswriter to ghost the things. In the new Darryl, Darryl Strawberry supposedly told Art Rust Jr. that when he was with the Mets, "I felt as if I were playing baseball at Dred Scott Memorial Park in glorious downtown Johannesburg." Darryl has since failed the history and geography quizzes administered to determine if he knew who Scott was or where Johannesburg is.
Well, I'm turning the typing tables on this process, ladies and gentlemen. I have cowritten my autobiography, and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED proudly excerpts it here this week.
By Norman Chad
As told to Mookie Wilson
Where would you begin writing your life story if your life had two beginnings instead of one and if you really hadn't lived a real life yet?
Well, I was born in 1959. Actually, it may have been '57 or '62. (Note to publisher: Please check on this.) I did not meet my parents until the day of my birth and didn't actually speak to them until I was nearly 14 months old. For several years I sensed ambivalence on their part over my presence.
I liked TV at a very young age, particularly Hazel and Maverick. Hazel and Bret Maverick became early role models for me, and for a while I was undecided between becoming a cleaning lady or a ladies' man when I grew up.