Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope

Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope


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For the first time ever, the popular late host of ESPN's The Sports Reporters and ABC's college football openly discusses a lifelong battle with depression.

During his three decades on ESPN and ABC, John Saunders became one of the nation's most respected and beloved sportscasters. In this moving, jarring, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Saunders discusses his troubled childhood, the traumatic brain injury he suffered in 2011, and the severe depression that nearly cost him his life. As Saunders writes,

Playing Hurt is not an autobiography of a sports celebrity but a memoir of a man facing his own mental illness, and emerging better off for the effort. I will take you into the heart of my struggle with depression, including insights into some of its causes, its consequences, and its treatments.

I invite you behind the facade of my apparently "perfect" life as a sportscaster, with a wonderful wife and two healthy, happy adult daughters. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am truly grateful. But none of these things can protect me or anyone else from the disease of depression and its potentially lethal effects.

Mine is a rare story: that of a black man in the sports industry openly grappling with depression. I will share the good, the bad, and the ugly, including the lengths I've gone to to conceal my private life from the public.

So why write a book? Because I want to end the pain and heartache that comes from leading a double life. I also want to reach out to the millions of people, especially men, who think they're alone and can't ask for help.

John Saunders died suddenly on August 10, 2016, from an enlarged heart, diabetes, and other complications. This book is his ultimate act of generosity to help those who suffer from mental illness, and those who love them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780306824739
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 08/08/2017
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 1,084,667
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

John Saunders was a legendary ESPN and ABC sports broadcaster, known to millions of Americans as the face of college football and the arbiter of thoughtful sports journalism on ESPN's The Sports Reporters. Saunders passed away on August 10th, 2016.

Twitter: @johnreporters

John U. Bacon is the New York Times bestselling author of, among other titles, Three and Out, Fourth and Long, and Endzone.

Twitter: @johnubacon

Table of Contents

Foreword Mitch Albom xi

Author's Note John U. Bacon xvii

Preface: Looking Over the Edge xix

Introduction xxiii

Part 1 Growing up the Hard Way

1 An Oasis of Love 3

2 An Indecent Proposal 10

3 Playing with Fire 13

4 He Ain't Heavy 27

5 The Salvation of Sports 30

6 Looking for a Little Relief 36

7 My Two Selves 42

8 The Drug Business 47

9 Hurting Myself 51

Part 2 Trying to Build a Better Life

10 Moving Out, Moving On, Moving Back 57

11 Falling in Love 70

12 Go West 76

13 Getting Married 80

14 Country John Saunders 84

15 Chasing a New Dream 94

16 Making It in Moncton 99

17 Bright Lights, Big City 111

18 Big Man in Baltimore 118

19 A Family of My Own 132

20 The Worldwide Leader 139

21 Our Sister 144

22 Livin' in America 150

Part 3 The Façade Cracks

23 The Psych Ward 157

24 Dr. Dangerous 171

25 Falling Backward 175

26 Scaling Mt. Sinai 182

27 Learning to Walk 190

28 A High-Stakes Stroll in the Park 200

29 Ready for Prime Time? 211

30 Testing, Testing 218

Part 4 Collision Course

31 The Damage of Doctor Dangerous Revealed 227

32 Let the Bad Times Roll 232

33 Stumbling Toward Unhappiness 238

34 A Day in the Doldrums 244

35 Peering Over the Tappan Zee Bridge 249

36 Back to the Bridge 254

37 Crunch Time 257

38 You've Got to Admit It's Getting Better 263

39 Jimmy V, Dickie V, and Cardio V 268

40 Learning the Best Lesson 277

Afterword John U. Bacon 283

Acknowledgments John U. Bacon 291

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