The Sportsman: Unexpected Lessons from an Around-the-World Sports Odyssey
by Dhani Jones with Jonathan Grotenstein
I need to open my comments on The Sportsman with the admission that I did not finish the book. Regular readers will be aware that I prefer fiction to nonfiction and that I don't often post about memoirs or sports-related books. Lest any of you think that my preferences yielded to bias against The Sportsman, I submit this confession: I am a huge Dhani Jones fan.2 When Time Warner dropped the Travel Channel from our Buffalo cable package, Dhani Tackles the Globe is the show I mourned the most. If anything, my love of Dhani likely predisposed me toward his memoir.
I was excited to get my hands on a review copy of The Sportsman and couldn't wait to get an extra dose of that endearing Dhani personality. The memoir's subtitle, "Unexpected Lessons from an Around-the-World Sports Odyssey," left me expecting a narrative built upon Dhani's experiences making Dhani Tackles the Globe and presented in a style like referenced the television show.
The memoir starts from the beginning ("my parents took two years to name me," 3), explaining how Dhani developed a love of sport and how he came to play football despite his mother's objections. Dhani's first person narrative is a bit too informal (in describing his teenage attitude problems he uses "mofo" and "suck my left nut"), but I was willing to give him (and his coauthor) the benefit of the doubt. But, on page 5, the narrative is interrupted by "A note from Commander Samuel L. Jones a.k.a. Dad". This I did not like at all. Yes, it did give an alternative perspective on Dhani at that period of this life, but it was jarring and odd (shades of helicopter parenting). And, couldn't Dad's viewpoint be shared in Dhani's own words? When a note from "Dr. Nanacy Jones a.k a. Mom" cropped up on page 14, I knew that I wasn't going to make it through The Sportsman. I gave up shortly thereafter.
I was originally reticent to post about The Sportsman since I hadn't actually read very much of it. I wondered whether I'd given the memoir a fair chance. And, I held out the hope that I could get Russell to read it and offer his perspective (that didn't happen, I wasn't a very good salesperson). But, going through the early pages again, I realize that I still have no desire to keep reading The Sportsman. Maybe it gets better, but there were just far too many turn-offs in the early pages for me.
But, just because I didn't like The Sportsman, doesn't mean that you won't. The Sportsman has a 4.7 star rating on Amazon (16 reviews) and a 3.55 on Goodreads (70 ratings).
- CBC did it well, CTV does it even better. Access to Canadian Olympic coverage is one of the things I miss most about living in Buffalo.
- And, Russell and I both went to University of Michigan where Dhani played college ball. Russell actually saw him play in The Big House, though Dhani was already playing for the Giants by the time I got to Ann Arbor for graduate school.
disclosure: I received a review copy of The Sportsman from Rodale via NetGalley.