The largest tennis stadium in the world is named after him. The last major of the year is decided on his surface. Nothing could be more appropriate than to commend the efforts of a man, who not only changed the game, but changed the way we see things. One book does it better than the rest.
Mr. Ashe was low key, mild mannered, a shy man you could say, but his game and presence stood tall, brash, and personified individualism like none other. In Mike Towle’s book, I Remember Arthur Ashe: Memories of a True Tennis Pioneer and Champion of Social Causes by the People Who Knew Him by Cumberland House, we get a candid glance into the life of someone who hardly showed any emotions on the court, carried himself with the utmost class and dignity, and seemed impervious to the spotlight. Unlike most biographies, which typically consist of a laborious bulk of exposition and pastoral beginnings, Towle’s book is a narrative not of his own, but of the people that knew Arthur Ashe well, and some not so well, but relay an experience they had encountering the great tennis legend revealing a more human side of Ashe, one that has never been unveiled before.
The structure of the book is linear following Ashe’s career from its auspicious beginnings to the tragic end of losing a bout with AIDS, all told through personal friends and colleagues alike, and even at times the very subject himself. My favorite passage from the book, one that I think reveals his human side the most, is when Ashe recalls a match he had against tennis great John Newcombe in Sydney where he lost due to some good old fashioned day dreaming. ‘I remember I won the first set,’ Ashe recalls, ‘Then all of a sudden I started thinking about this stewardess, Bella, I had met. She was Miss Trinidad of 1962. I just kept seeing her – this gorgeous face, this beautiful creature – and the next thing I know the match is over and Newcombe won.’
This book is more than a book about a tennis player. It’s a book about being human, and few stories mirror Arthur Ashe’s journey. Here’s to you Arthur, and to you too Mr. Towle for a great idea.