I've dug ditches, lubed jackhammers and manned the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven. But the worst job I ever had was writing Wayne Gretzky's autobiography.
It was like trying to draw personal revelations out of a 1970 Plymouth Duster. The only thing Gretzky hates worse than going into the corners is going on about himself. Humility's O.K., I guess, but it tends to give ghostwriters facial tics.
"Gretz, seriously, you've got to go into a little more detail about yourself," I'd moan.
"All right, all right," he'd say. "What year are we up to now?"
"I didn't do much that year, did I?"
"Oh, no, not really, except you led the freaking league in goals and assists! Won the Hart Trophy! Won the damn Cup!"
"Good. Go with that. Now, what happened in '85?"
Last week everybody up to and including the prime minister of Canada begged Gretzky to play one more season, give the world one last chance to ticker-tape the greatest team athlete in history.
Gretzky would rather spend a year flossing rhinos than do that. The man hates a fuss, and farewell tours are fuss times 80. Throughout his career, any time games would be delayed so Gretzky could accept giant crystal bowls or get handed keys to Rolls-Royces, he'd feel bad for his teammates. "They're ready to play a game," he'd groan. "They're athletes, and they have to just sit there, waiting."