I just finished reading the book, Spare, by Prince Harry (ghost-written by J.R. Moehringer). And while this isn't a "sports book" per se, I feel compelled to write about a few takeaways.
On the literal last page of the book, Harry says, "Thanks to my collaborator and friend, confessor and sometime sparring partner, J.R. Moehringer, who spoke to me so often and with such deep conviction about the beauty (and sacred obligation) of Memoir."
Having written a memoir of sorts, I was touched by this statement. At its very core, a memoir is about you: your feelings, memories, and observations about yourself and others. It's not a dense recollection of facts or dates, but an opportunity to "tell your story."
The words "sacred obligation" hit deep because he's talking about that fine line between feelings and facts, truths and memories.
And he's reiterating why so many memoirs miss the mark. The subject has to go there: "there" being that place of personal truth that only you can tell. I wrote a book about myself and another about someone else. In both, I spent many long nights fighting over what I should share, how much to share, and striking that delicate balance of interesting vs. too much information.
A lot of people have criticized Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle. I won't get into all the reasons why, but I want to acknowledge that the act of criticizing someone's feelings about anything inherently feels hollow. You may not agree with them, but they are theirs and theirs alone. If anything, a baseline respect can and should exist for all writers willing to open up their soul. It's just not easy.
One other thing that I think bears some reflection is Harry's entire life being impacted by the media. From the day he was born, he had a camera in his face. His mother's death, in his eyes, was caused by the paparazzi. Multiple relationships of his were impacted by the media, whether it was physical cameras in his face, or made-up stories being printed in the papers. As he grew up, The Palace chose what narratives were allowed and ignored others based on political, social, or personal relationships.
Imagine if I told you 2,000 years ago that billions of dollars would be made each year by simply talking and writing about other people. Even more shocking, imagine if most of what was presented was untrue.
This isn't about Prince Harry or The Monarch; it's about human ethics. Could you imagine being one of the photographers that chased Princess Diana around Paris to the moment of her car crash? Do those people know that their actions are still perceived to be the reason why she's no longer with us?
In an age of "unidentified sources" and hiding behind screens, their is a responsibility of anyone putting pen to paper or mic to mouth. Enough with the fake stories and the constant criticism of people you don't know. Networks say it drives ratings. I say, then stop paying attention to it so things can change.
I previously wrote about an experience my freshman year playing college basketball. Hounded from horn to horn, I was called every name in the book, and the use of family members in some of the slurs was my definition of "crossing the line." To this day, I think about that sometimes: the fact that many feel like they can act like idiots because they bought a ticket to a ballgame. Cheer for your team, and have a great time. But, don't say things to people that you wouldn't say to their face in a different setting.
Respect as fans, as media, and as people needs a refresh. There is no going back in life, but I'd hope we can all exhibit some decency in how we talk about and to other people.
Memoirs should've have to "clarify" the truth.
Until next time...
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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