Causing a storm: here's six other sports books that sparked controversy

Kevin Cassidy is not alone. Gavin Henson, Andre Agassi and David O’Leary all feature in our list of incendiary sporting books.

Image: Russel A. Daniels/AP/Press Association Images

IT WAS ANNOUNCED today that Kevin Cassidy has been kicked off the Donegal panel for some ill-advised comments he made about his team in a recently published book.

Cassidy is not the first athlete to land himself in hot water over his decision to affiliate himself with a controversial piece of literature.

With that in mind, here are six more sports stars who took ill-advised trips into the literary world…

Gavin Henson – My Grand Slam Year (2005)

Premise: Following his starring role in Wales’ Grand Slam triumph, Henson decided to cash in on his burgeoning celebrity with a book depicting events from that year. Unfortunately, he had some less than kind words to say about his teammates.

The result: Henson was forced to apologise for his controversial comments.

Harshest line: On Brian O’Driscoll: “It wouldn’t be until the Lions tour that I could appreciate the real person behind the rugby player. I ended up getting on well with Brian in New Zealand and discovered him to be a really good guy. But, like many players, he seems to take on a different personality when he steps on to the pitch. I can never really understand that.”

Jim Bouton – Ball Four (1970)

Premise: Jim Brouton chronicled the 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros. Considered one of the greatest sports books of all time (there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to it), Ball Four exposed some of the sports world’s harshest truths, including depictions of players’ womanising tendencies and Mickey Mantle’s heavy drinking habits.

The result: Despite the book rapidly attaining classic status, Bouton was virtually ostracised from the world of baseball following its publication.

Harshest line: On the amphetamine craze in baseball at the time: “Most players saw amphetamines as harmless. But the professional athlete does a lot of things to his body that they don’t think of as harmful.”

Roy Keane – Keane: The Autobiography (2002)

Premise: Following his refusal to play for Ireland in the World Cup, the public’s interest in one of the most divisive athletes ever went into overdrive. However, it was not Saipan, but Keane’s admission that he deliberately set out to injure fellow professional Alf Inge Haaland, which proved to be the major talking point following its publication.

The result: Keane was suspended over the remarks he made and Haaland even considered suing him at one point.

Harshest line: On getting retribution on Haaland: “I’d waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***.”

Alex Ferguson – Managing My Life: My Autobiography (1999)

Premise: After Ferguson attained unprecedented success with United, helping them to win the treble, he set about documenting his experiences as a player – from his humble beginnings and modest playing career, to his series of remarkable achievements managing Man United. First and foremost though, Ferguson was determined to provide an honest account of his life in football, even if it meant upsetting certain individuals.

The result: Ferguson received criticism in some quarters, but his reputation did not suffer significantly in spite of the book’s controversial passages.

Harshest line: On Gordon Strachan: “I decided this man could not be trusted an inch – I would not want to expose my back to him in a hurry.”

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David O’Leary – Leeds United on Trial (2002)

Premise: Bizarrely written while O’Leary was still Leeds manager, the Irishman used the book to criticise players such as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for being ‘lazy,’ and also documented the controversy surrounding Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, who had been on trial for their involvement in an attack on a student.

The result: Unsurprisingly, O’Leary was sacked soon after its publication.

Harshest line: On investigations surrounding Woodgate and Bowyer: “I got the impression that if the police could put one over the club they were keen to do so.”

Andre Agassi – Open: An Autobiography (2009)

Premise: Agassi’s autobiography was, like all the best sports books, a searingly honest depiction of his profession. And also like most sports books that are worth reading, it upset a significant amount of people, namely the tennis authorities, who were perturbed by Agassi’s admission that he took drugs and got away with it during his career.

The result: Agassi faced both criticism and support in the wake of its release.

Harshest line: Agassi’s father’s reaction to him winning his first-ever Grand Slam: “You had no business losing that fourth set.”

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Poll: Was Jim McGuinness right to axe All-Star Cassidy over book comments?>

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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