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June 24, 2013 04:26 PM
Jimmy-Connors_(2)I sometimes feel I’ve known Jimmy Connors my entire life. I first became aware of him when I was in college in Missouri during the mid-1960s. Reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch one day I noticed that Connors, then about 14, was thrashing good men players in a tournament at the St. Louis Armory. I remember thinking, Who is this kid?
I followed Connors through the years.  I admired his flat, laser-like two-handed backhand, his no-quit effort on the court, his tiny metal racket. I didn’t much care for his crotch-grabbing or his garbage-mouthing. He was young then, so I excused such behavior. 
As I read Connors’s recently published, 400-page memoir, The Outsider, I found myself thinking, Who is this man? The all-grown-up Jimmy Connors comes across as wholly unlikeable and terribly needy. I now know many new things about him, none of which I can excuse. He is nearly illiterate, holds grudges, loathes Agassi, slights McEnroe, detests the Davis Cup. He has sued a lot of people, cheated on his wife, cheated during his one year of college. He left Chris Evert to seek an abortion, made millions, gambled away millions, got drunk, never went to a shrink but instead went on long walks with his dogs.
When Connors was a boy, he was told by his grandmother, his mother’s mother, known affectionately as Two-Mom, to keep himself a mystery. He doesn’t keep many things secret in The Outsider. And yet, by the end, all I felt was emptiness and annoyance.
bookjacket_(2)The Outsider is poorly edited. Much of it reads like yellowed newspaper clippings. Page after page has sentences such as this one: I beat Hank Pfister 6-3, 6-1 in the first round of the Alan King Classic, on the heels of beating Johan Kriek in Monterey . . .
Connors embraces the word “sh*t.”  The f-word is also well-favored in The Outsider, but the s-word seems to suit him best. The result is boorish and boring.
I felt like sh*t.
This sh*t was getting old.
You look like sh*t.
Holy sh*t!
No sh*t.
I could give a sh*t.
Whenever he didn’t give a sh*t, Connors writes several times, I shrugged my shoulders. Hate to tell you, Jimbo, but shrugged is enough. Ever try shrugging your hips? Your feet?
Jimmy Connors was an original, I will give him that. He came along in the early 1970s, at the onset of America’s tennis boom. Even if you didn’t play tennis, you probably got a kick out of him. Here was this mop-top punk, flipping the bird to the guy across the net, berating the chair umpire or lines people, telling off fans, fighting the world. Oh, yeah, that Jimbo was Something.
“Get me Laver,” Connors told his agent after he beat John Newcombe in one of those televised Winner-Take-All Challenge Matches, which Connors reveals were really be winner-take-some.
What else does he divulge? When Dad Connors wasn’t working the toll bridge between St. Louis and Illinois, he was slugging down Scotch at neighborhood saloons. Brother Johnny Connors purloined a boatload of Jimmy’s earnings and sunk it into casinos that went bust. The brothers didn’t speak for years. Two-Mom and daughter Gloria, Jimmy’s mother, rode the gravy train. They were there to push, push, push little Jimmy to take the ball early and do whatever you have to to win. Need to know how to throw a punch? Grandpa, called Pop, an ex-fighter who once tangled with Joe Louis, was around to show the kid how. 
It would be easy to blame a dysfunctional family on the way Jimmy Connors turned out.  Because he refused to see a psychiatrist, we’re left with no choice.
The real mystery of The Outsider is why Connors agreed to write his autobiography now. Twenty-two years ago, when Connors was 39 and in the midst of his lively swan song at the U.S. Open, outlasting guys half his age, and causing America to stay up past midnight to see him do an over-the-top fist pump after every point, that would have been the right time. Yes, he won an astonishing 109 tournaments, and if you want to know about every one of them, they’re in the book. Along with a bunch of other s---.