Book Review: Man in the Middle

My sister-in-law lent me this at the beach because I had mentioned the fascinating story of John Amaechi previously. He does have a pretty unique background – a British basketball player who played at Penn State, not known for its hoops prowress, and put together a solid NBA career after bouncing around European leagues.

Oh, and he’s the first former NBA player to come out of the closet.

The book, which I read in record time because it maintains the simplicity of all sports memoirs, taught me a lot about John Amaechi, but the most important thing I learned is the thing which made the book a chore to finish.

He finds himself way more fascinating than anyone reading his story does. I know he’s smart and talented and managed to fool so many people during his NBA career, but he continually reminds us how he’s above his fellow competitors because of his uniqueness.

This has nothing to do with his sexuality. In fact, those are the most engaging and funny parts of the book. He does a great job talking about the ease and difficulty of being a closeted gay man in the NBA. You have to laugh when he discusses the primping and fashion concern of his teammates and thinks “And I’m the gay one?” I also loved how he used his Britishness to fend off questioning from people who had an inkling about his secret.

It’s his disdain for his profession and its relative lack of importance in his overall life that made me roll my eyes. I’m not so naive to think that there aren’t guys who simply play pro sports because that’s what they do best and making money is way more important than winning and losing. I just don’t need John Amaechi reminding me over and over again how he’s above the people who live and die by the final score, especially his coaches.

In the end, I’, glad I read the book because it stripped off some of the veneer f a guy who did something courageous. He’s still pretty fascinating, but just as flawed as the people he criticizes. He just doesn’t realize how.


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