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Man in the Middle Hardcover – February 20, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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About the Author

John Amaechi played in the NBA for six seasons and was honored by the basketball Hall of Fame for scoring the first points of the new millenium. In 2001, he formed the ABC Foundation and built the Amaechi Basketball Centre (he plans to build five more) in his hometown of Manchester, England, dedicated to personal excellence, mentoring, and counseling young people through sport. He is also the founder of Animus Consulting and a regular commentator.

Chris Bull, co-founder of QueerCity.com, is the author of several books, including Going the Other Way (with Billy Bean) and Perfect Enemies (with John Gallagher). A former Washington correspondent for The Advocate, he is a recipient of the 2000 Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship and has written for publications including The Washington Post and ESPN The Magazine. He lives in San Francisco.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: ESPN; First Edition edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933060190
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933060194
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I was actually a fan of the man known as "Meech" back in his "pre-gay" days, when he was "merely" a center for the Orlando Magic (albeit a tea-drinking, poetry-writing center - none of which are gay per se, just highly unusual for NBA big men). I had no knowledge of his sexual orientation until this book was announced. I just knew of him as an articulate, funny, hard-working and self-effacing gentleman - an unlikely success story in the world of professional athletics, to be sure. The British version of Rudy, perhaps...

So I fully acknowledge that just because I really liked this book doesn't necessarily mean you will. After all, I am the most ready-made of target audiences, already holding the author in high esteem. But please allow me, in this review, to introduce you to Mr. John Amaechi and give you a sampling of his words. And hopefully once familiar with this wonderful fellow you will be encouraged to see for yourself just what he has to impart.

First off, let me say that with most sports books that are co-written with another author, you would be right to be cynical about words like "gregariousness" and "miscreants" (and phrases like "a bonanza of flesh") appearing in the prose. You'd be forgiven for finding it highly unlikely a pro athlete would write like that. But anyone who has heard John's spoken eloquence (or read his website poetry) knows that these would not be surprising word choices for him.

And one of the best things about this book is the joy in the language - John has always been a bit of a "word nerd" of sorts, so this offering comes loaded with a colorful vernacular and some nifty turns of phrase (I think "barmy armies" is my favorite - used to describe the truly fanatical basketball fans in Europe.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most famous gay people are really famous people who happen to be gay. Being a writer is what put Oscar Wilde in the spotlight; being the First Lady is what did the same for Eleanor Roosevelt. John Amaechi's life is the exact same way. This book is 95% about life before and in the NBA, period. A straight person who wants to be a basketball star could find this just as useful as a person struggling to accept being gay. Governor James McGreevey and Mr. Amaechi both visited what the British call "cottages," but just as McGreevey's autobiography was mostly about politics and a little about being gay, so Amaechi's book is mostly about his profession.

That being said, homophobes, and of course I disagree strongly with such bigotry, could pick apart this book and the man's life. John Amaechi had an absent father and a strong mother: the recipe that many bigoted people say would make a male gay. Amaechi is a political liberal who loves writing poetry and drinking tea. He also hates guns proliferation and doesn't really care for sports. Again, bigoted readers may dismiss him as a stereotypical gay man, despite his accomplishment as the first NBA player to come out. Amaechi's witty urbanity will rub many "red-blooded, all-American" sports fans the wrong way.

Though there are more out football players than basketball players, Amaechi makes the NBA sound far less homophobic than Esera Tuaolo described of the NFL. Tuaolo said he feared for his bodily safety and that footballer players spouted homophobia constantly. Amaechi never describes fearing for his life and he minimally talks of homophobia in the NBA. Moreover, Tuaolo basically said NFL players could lose their jobs in an instant.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Amaechi's book chronicles the life of a young man who has dedicated himself to helping others achieve their best. His respect, love, and dedication to his mother, who raised three children by herself, is admirable. His perspective on family, especially the mother/son relationship, illustrates what unconditional love is all about. The book is not necessarily a "coming out" but rather a commentary on those who have touched John's life for better and for worse. However, the statement that the book makes concerning gay athletes definitely needs to be heard by everyone, not just homophobic athletes and coaches in the NBA. John's message that we are all human beings with our own strengths and weaknesses is more of a testimony to who he is rather than to his sexual orientation. John's candor, his cynicism, and his sincerity make this book a must read for everyone.
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Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was a fan of Meech and even had a little crush on him when I watched him play with the Magic. I was impressed with how he behaved on and off the court as a person. When this book came out, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that he was gay (he was on my "list" of dream men that I would love to meet someday - shoot). I was surprised when he shared his views on his body image and desirability, he didn't know how others viewed him. I'm sure he will make someone a wonderful partner. John's life's journey is certainly no accident, it appears that his struggles prepared him to illustrate to the world how determination conquers all. I believe that John is the right person to show that gay men can be great basketball players, mentors and role models for us all.

I found John's story to be both heartbreaking and inspiring. I felt so sad for him because of the struggles he had with being accepted growing up and dealing with the whole akwardness of school life. I find his willingness to share his story inspiring because of the relationship he had with his mother and the goal he had for "The Plan". John's writing took me to every place he went in an effort to fulfill "The Plan". What stood out to me the most was when he described his experience with the Utah Jazz. I'm a sports fan, and I must admit that I never cared for Utah's coach - I was appalled by what John described. John's description about the lockeroom behavior with so called "straight" players in the league was classic comedy, I never laughed so hard. John has a knack for incorporating humor at the right times throughout the book.

I really hope that the NBA keeps recognizing John Amaechi - he is an outstanding individual.
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