independent

Sunday 17 December 2017

There's lots more to this read than life on a motorbike

Book review - Dean Goodison

'Feel - My Story'
'Feel - My Story'

There's a natural tendency for a lot of us, when we walk into The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street, to head to the sports section and go straight for the publications that fall within our comfort zone, what we know best.

Sift through the soccer, the G.A.A., the rugby, maybe even the golf, and head off with something that bounces off the cover.

However, the shrewd folk out there know that all that glitters isn't gold. They might ignore their favourite sports in favour of something new; after all, isn't the purpose of books to increase our knowledge base? Is reading the latest Ronaldo, Suarez or Messi money-maker really going to enrich our lives?

These avid readers head for the section in the corner where every other sport is squashed in together, looking for something that's different, something that they can enjoy and that contains new information on each page. There's poker in there, chess, U.S. sports, hockey, motorsports, a bit of everything.

This is where the classic metaphor, 'don't judge a book by its cover', is so important. It's easy to pick up a book and scoff at a picture of a dude curling around a corner on his motorbike and disregard it as 'not my cup of tea'. Yet, once again, looks can be so deceiving.

Firstly, if you knew nothing about motorsport, the name Freddie Spencer sounds classic English. That would be the first wrong assumption made when picking up 'Feel - My Story'. The motorcycle road racer is, in fact, from Shreveport, Louisiana, in the United States.

To generalise a little, there tends to be a discernible difference between an autobiography by an British or Irish sportsperson and one written by someone from across the pond. Given a choice, this reviewer would always pick up the one laced with Star Spangled Banner glee.

Like a lot of American sports stars, Spencer delves far from the track into his life, before, during and after his career at the top. The three-time world champion talks in depth about his legendary seasons in 1983 and '85 but 'Feel' is more than that.

He talks about the losses he endures through the years, the relationships he built and that slipped away, about his children, his devoted mother and father, about Mr. Williams. He talks of how times were hard, then everything changed when success came, how injuries cut him down and how things quickly went south during the recession.

All the while there's a spiritual undertone to the book that is slowly divulged as each chapter goes by. It's all based around his extended stay in the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Louisiana in the summer and fall of 2010. A time in Spencer's life when he's not long divorced from his wife and is at a crossroads.

He goes on journeys from his base at the Marriott, both physically and spiritually, as he searches for self-contentment. It's a mightily interesting way to frame a book and, by his own admission, he had to take considerable time to decide it was right to open himself up and let others read his story with judging eyes.

Some people might take something from Spencer's journey, others might see it as a bit of a mid-life crisis splayed across the pages. It makes a pleasant change though to read something from the heart, as opposed to a chronological rehashing of achievements.

This can be enjoyed by any sports fan that likes a story. Fans of 'Fast Freddie' will probably enjoy it as a look at his best days on the track while others will be interested by the story of his life humming along in the background. Well worth a read.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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