Wednesday, March 04, 2009

An Odd Odd Man Out

Uh oh. Yet another memoir is having aspersions cast upon its veracity. Odd Man Out is a memoir about a season in the low minor leagues that has garnered considerable press in large part because its author, Matt McCarthy, is a graduate of Yale and is now a medical doctor. Sports Illustrated recently ran an excerpt of the book. But now The New York Times has done some snooping and something is awry.

The accusations are of two types, one damning, one (possibly) less so. McCarthy claims that he took prodigious notes in journals during the time. Yet there are clearly some factual errors, and enough of them are substantial. This is fairly damning, especially since as of now McCarthy has refused to show his journals to anyone. The issue appears to be that his journals are undated. If so, this might be sloppy, but also would explain some of the factual inconsistencies.

The second accusations come from people who insist that they never could or would have said or done certain things. In almost all cases, the things they claim not to have said or done are offensive and make them look bad. These accusations I take with a grain of salt. Anyone who has ever spent any time in a locker room or on a road trip with male athletes and coaches knows damned well the sorts of things that guys will say and do. As a general rule, athletes say piggish things all the time. None would want those words exposed necessarily, but when someone exposes them, a denial does not make them untrue. I sure as hell am glad no one had designs on writing a memoir about my high school sports teams, or even my college track team, as trust me, being at Williams does not make guys any more sensitive about bodily functions, physical abnormalities, women, or basically anyone who can be made fun of. If there is any solace it is that guys are every bit as awful to their teammates as they are in discussing outside targets of their mirth, mockery, or meanness.

Of course if someone who was never on the Williams track team were to write a memoir, would anyone be surprised? The genre is beset with difficulties to the point where maybe we need a five-year moratorium on no-names writing them.

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