Image Isn’t Everything

November 13, 2009

Man, selling a new autobiography has become quite formulaic. Publicists used to work hard, but now the recipe for success is simple. All you need is a few hundred pages most of the world doesn’t really care about with a few outlandish allegations or bombshell admissions mixed in (think MacKenzie Phillips).  Then you leak the juiciest news before the book debuts, follow it up with a media tour to address the controversy and watch the inventory fly off the shelves at Barnes & Noble.

Most recently, this formula has been put to good use by Andre Agassi – tennis legend, humanitarian and former meth addict. Fresh off revelations about drug use, hair pieces, tanking matches and much more, Agassi’s new book sits as one of the top sellers in America.

The book is obviously making a ton of money, but at what cost to his reputation?  He’s been called pathetic, a liar, a cheat and some have even asked that he be investigated for perjury for concocting a story to avoid suspension after a failed drug test.

As an aside, how did the ATP fall for the story that he accidentally consumed the water of a friend named Slim, who routinely spiked his drinks with meth?  Wasn’t the fact that Agassi had a buddy named Slim enough to raise some extra suspicion? 

Back to the point, Agassi had to be motivated by more than cash. He earned more than $30 million playing tennis, millions more in endorsements, and his wife, Steffi Graf, made a few bucks in her day as well. In addition, reports say he received a $5 million advance for the book before anyone knew how monumentally he would out himself.  Maybe he started writing and it felt really good to get out all of his secrets.  Perhaps he truly hoped his story would help someone battling with drug addition or depression. 

In his “60 Minutes” interview last weekend, Agassi said, “I had way more to lose by telling this story in its full transparency than I had to gain. The part that I worry and think more about is who this may help.” 

For his sake, I hope he’s being honest about his intentions. This is a forgiving world and we love to give people a second chance, but this will stick with Agassi forever. He’ll likely lose more in endorsement opportunities than he’ll gain in book revenue. I hope coming clean was worth it. 

What do you think – is Agassi sincere or a sellout?