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I picked up Andre Agassi's book "Open", an autobiography co-written with the help of J.R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The main reasons I picked up the book were obviously to find out if he said anything about being Iranian in it, but also because, like him or not, or should I say, him liking us or not, Agassi was one of the best tennis players in history, and I am sure we have all wondered what it would be like to be a professional tennis player.
Let me address this most often asked burning issue first. NO, unfortunately, Andre Agassi is not Iranian.
I'm pausing now, to allow this news to sink in. Because I know some of you will need a moment.
Are you Okay?
The reason this information was the burning issue is that obviously we assumed with an historically popular name like Agassi (or Aghassi), Andre was of course Iranian. Many of us have even often included him on those incessantly annoying "Accomplished Iranians" lists, or PowerPoint presentations or Youtube videos.
But I will say selfishly I don't care and I will insist this, that neither he nor his father are not Iranian. They might as well accept it. For as the book illustrates painfully, Andre Agassis father Emmanuel or "Mike" is an Armenian who grew up in Tehran. I have a very good Armenian friend who funny enough is also named Manuel, who also grew up in Tehran. He considers himself to be "an Armenian who grew up in Tehran". But neither my friend nor Mike Agassi consider themselves to be Iranian.
Can both of you say "Denial"? Everyone knows that the minute you drink one drop of Tehran tap water, you are forever genetically altered.
Agassi's father was also subject to a tough life on the mean streets of Tehran back in the day, often fighting a lot, and eventually turned to boxing as an outlet for his anger. One story in the book illustrates how Mike's mother was very tough on him, making him go to school in girl's clothes as punishment. For which Mike no doubt received even more anger to manage.
The rough life in Tehran, and a deep Armenian pride (even though dude, you are totally an Iranian), combined in the US, to instill a high level of discipline in his sons, Andre of which, was the most naturally gifted athlete.
So great was the Father's desire to have his son succeed, that he researched all of the then known professional sports, and decided that Tennis would be the best pat for Andre to take to super stardom and the good life. And so it was written and so it was done. Pharaoh's son would became the best tennis player in the world.
Somebody though, forgot to ask little Andre if he wanted his dad to be Pharaoh, or just Dad. It appears now from this book, it was the latter. But didn't we all want our dads to be just dad? The reason why it now does not matter that Andre thinks he is not Iranian, and might as well accept it, is that whether he likes it or not, whether he knows it or not, whether Mike thinks it or not, Andre's dad was being the classic Iranian dad! All Iranian dads think being hard is good for you, being soft is bad. All Iranian dads want you to succeed, and even if after all the hints they've put out for you to find your whole life, if you still you don't know how to get there, are more than happy to map out a detailed plan for you.
It turns out that being a tennis star and a worldwide phenom is not all it is cracked up to be. The business pressure, the social deprivation and detachment, the yearning for simple real life, and the sheer physical pain of being a world class athlete were fascinating to learn.
Most fascinating was how self conscious Andre felt about his famous mullet hair. Looking back on his career, I now remember that Andre was far more cockier and a big asshole with it, and far more sincere and kind without it.
Other press reports have been focused on Agassi's admitted drug use, specifically Crystal Methamphetamine. But I will just put these words in now, just so this piece and this site come up somewhere on a Google search. I don't actually care if he did the drugs or not. He felt he was a paid clown for the enjoyment of others and with the added pressures of an Iranian dad factored on top of it, that's a heavy burden for anyone to carry.
The book has generated a rightful buzz. Not because of the drug use or French Open hair disaster scene. I have to say that I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Probably because of
the well-crafted hand of J.R. Moehringer somewhere near the helm, but mostly because it is
simply a wonderful story of what we would mistake as triumph, but turns out isn't really, combining with adversity that we would not normally think is
all that adverse, and in the end producing a tight resolution that we can all absolutely agree is a good
one to resolve.
Damet Garm Andre.
Ask your father what that means. Because he is Iranian, and will know.
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