John McEnroe: from the autobiographical book “Seriously”
Until this very day, I often have the feeling that my name is written right on my forehead. It is difficult to walk along the street, wherever it is, without someone noticing me and not shouting, as if we were in fifth grade together.
In most cases, it’s nice. Of course, I can survive without being asked for an autograph in the middle of dinner. And in fact, I do not like to give autographs to those who are more than 11-12 years old. Well, what can my handwriting, like a chicken’s paw, give a person, if he is not a child – well, maybe, apart from money in the market for sports paraphernalia? And believe me, my signature is not that much worth it. I don’t get tired of such compliments. I feel proud that I deserve them. And I must admit it – some part of me is flattered by such attention.
This is one of the reasons, and I admit it, for which I am writing this book. Not only in order to attract attention, but also to seriously think how much attention I need. Will I ever be completely forgotten? Will I go so far as to wish for that which is no more? People always want what they don’t have and this is a rather miserable feature of human nature. Will I be like that person who asks everyone: “Hey, remember me?”
I hope no.
In the worst case, people saw in me a caricature: a spoiled, scandalous crybaby with a bad character. I do not deny it, I often behaved this way (although almost always I immediately regretted it). However, as I get older, I become more and more worried that caricature is all that remains of me.
John mackinroy caricature
I’m worried when the best that my agent can offer me is to say: “Listen, would you like to play against Anna Kournikova?” Am I really so caricatured that the best number that I can play against Kournikova? Is that what I got to at 43? Anything I got to in terms of tennis?
However, I’ll tell you right here and right now: “I have other activities besides playing against Anna Kournikova or Venus Williams” (ed. ‒ In 2000, there was talk of a possible meeting between Mackinaw and one of the Williams sisters).
It seems to me that in my life there should be real seriousness – in the life of any of us – after September 11th. It is as if we must face the reality that has been avoided for a long time.
Imagine: Johnny Mack, 43-year-old father of six children! When I first stepped onto the world stage I was a chubby 18-year-old boy with “shaggy” curly hair in a red bandana. Today I am a thin man with graying hair, wrinkles on his cheeks, a small silver earring in his left ear and a tattoo with roses and spikes on his right shoulder. I can change the diaper, pacify the riot, wipe away the tears, make breakfast.
I’m still in good shape. I play tennis almost every day, exercise on a fitness bike or jump rope when I don’t have time or want variety.
John McInroy in good shape
On the other hand, I am not fooling myself. No one knows his body better than a professional athlete and I am fully aware that the machine that Almighty gave me is not as flexible as before, that I am not so fast. I used to think in numbers (when I was a child, I amazed friends of my parents by multiplying and dividing large numbers in my head), and so objectively speaking now my level is about 60% of when I was in my prime.
Which, in principle, is not frail. But I’m not a tennis player anymore.
My dad grew up on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, but not in the best of it, but in the enclave of a motley mix of Irish, Germans, Poles and Hungarians of the working class. In an area better known as Yorkville.
Being not ordinary by origin, my father did everything possible to get to college, attending evening classes at the law school in Fordham and becoming a partner in one of the largest law firms in New York.
But dad never forgot his roots. He was full of love for Irish music and a sense of humor. Most of all, he liked to meet friends and skip a mug or two of beer, singing songs and telling jokes in a loud voice.
My mother Kay – nee Katherine Tresh, daughter of Long Island’s assistant sheriff – was inclined to see the world in a slightly more severe light than my father, who always smiled and had a kind word for anyone in reserve. Mom never trusted outsiders like dad; she could be dissatisfied with everyone.
My parents met in New York in the mid-50s when my father went on vacation from Catholic University in Washington and my mother went to medical school at Lenox Hill Hospital (Manhattan quarter, New York). Their relationship began quite corny one night at the bar, when several mom’s girlfriends from school accidentally met with his father and his friends. Dad did not have a serious relationship with any of these students, but they introduced him to a girl who turned out to be ideal for him. John and Kay got married while his father served in the Air Force.