How to start a sports memoir – examples from the stars
The “how to start a sports memoir” question can be answered in many ways. You can start with a key moment in an important game or meet; begin in the locker room just before the big game; start with the childhood you dedicated to training; begin at the end, with your retirement, and more.
All these options, and others, work, as you can see in the examples below.
1. Start a sports memoir when you’re down and likely out
Julian Edelman, Restless: A Memoir (2017) – a New York Times bestseller
From the moment we got into our locker room at halftime, I told anyone who’d listen how the second half was going to go. “It’s gonna be a helluva story, boys!”
With the score leaving us buried under a 21-3 deficit, Super Bowl LI had been a thirty-minute horror show at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Atlanta Falcons’ speed and execution and our lack of precision put us in a Super Bowl hole deeper than one any team had ever climbed out of.
What made me so sure there would be a plot twist? Didn’t I have doubts? No. We’d been in holes like this before. In Super Bowl XLIX, we trailed by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter against Seattle. No team had ever erased a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. We did.
2. Start a sports memoir by describing a feeling no one else understands
Abby Wambach, Forward: A Memoir (2017) – a New York Times bestseller
I have scored more professional soccer goals than anyone in the history of the game, 184 to be exact, but I never once witnessed the ball hitting the net. Although my eyes were open and aimed in the right direction, as soon as leather met rope the picture went black—not a slow fade, but a swift guillotine chop that separated the scene from my ability to see it.
My mind celebrated while my vision, blinded from adrenaline, lagged a beat behind, and by the time the two equalized there was a party on the field: high fives and hell yeahs, upraised arms and pumping legs and bouncing ponytails. I thrived on these brief blackouts, these zaps of instant amnesia. For thirty years scoring goals was my currency, the one skill I could barter for security and acceptance and love.
3. Start a sports memoir just before the big event
David Ross, Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages (2017) – a New York Times bestseller
From the moment I began to stir in bed on the morning of Wednesday, November 2, 2016, my mind was already racing. While most of America was at work, I was finally waking up. After leaving the locker room and winding down, I finally got to bed the night before at 2 a.m. as our Chicago Cubs continued chasing one of the great dreams in all of sports—one that had eluded us for more then one hundred years: winning another World Series.
Alex Honnold, Alone on the Wall (2016)
I started up the climb shortly after dawn. I wasn’t even sure I’d found the right start, since I hadn’t been on these lower pitches for two or three years. The beginning of the rout is kind of scruffy and ambiguous—ramps, traverses, and hand cracks angling up to the right—but it’s not as difficult as the upper two-thirds of the wall.
Still, I was nervous, even a little giddy. It had rained pretty much nonstop the day before, and now the rock was sandy, slabby, and a lot damper than I’d hoped. I probably should have waited another day before heading up the route. But I was overpsyched. I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in my van another whole day, thinking the same thoughts I had recycled for the past forty-eight hours. I had to strike while the iron was hot.
4. Start a sports memoir in early childhood, where it all began
Andre Agassi, Open: An Autobiography (2010) – a #1 national bestseller
I’m seven years old, talking to myself, because I’m scared, and because I’m the only person who listens to me. Under my breath I whisper: Just quit, Andre, just give up. Put down your racket and walk off this court, right now. Go into the house and get something good to eat. Play with Rita, Philly, or Tami. Sit with Mom while she knits or does her jigsaw puzzle. Doesn’t that sound nice? Wouldn’t that feel like heaven, Andre? To just quit? To never play tennis again?
But I can’t. Not only would my father chase me around the house with my racket, but something in my gut, some deep unseen muscle, wouldn’t let me. I hate tennis, hate it with all my heart, and still I keep playing, keep hitting all morning, and all afternoon, because I have no choice. No matter how much I want to stop, I don’t. I keep begging myself to stop, and I keep playing, and this gap, this contradiction between what I want to do and what I actually do, feels like the core of my life.
Now that you know how to start a sports memoir…
You can read about memoir openings in general, on our “How to Start a Memoir” page.
You can also see examples of how specific types of memoirs are started in these blogs: