Basketball was the easy part

Oct. 24, 2011
Oct. 24, 2011

Table of Contents
Oct. 24, 2011

  • Six weeks into the season, the conventional wisdom has been turned on its head— and sometimes back again. Trying to sort the contenders from the pretenders? Beyond Green Bay, it's anyone's guess

Photo Credits: Walter Iooss Jr. for Sports Illustrated

Basketball was the easy part

In a new, searingly honest autobiography Hall of Famer Jerry West reveals the sources of the drive that led him to succeed both on the court and in the Lakers' front office, and of the depression that haunted him every step of the way

Here's the trouble with the gods: They don't come clean. Not even to fellow gods. So maybe it wouldn't work.

This is an article from the Oct. 24, 2011 issue

Maybe Jerry West couldn't do what he would love to do: gather them in a room—Michael and Kobe and Magic and Larry and Tiger and Ali—and begin digging to the bottom of what separated them from the mortals.

"But they just don't talk about these things," he says. Maybe they don't know, or want to know, what's at the bottom. Maybe they're afraid knowing might diminish their power. Maybe they've not stared down there as many nights as he has, waiting for light to find its way to his window.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods. He scaled Mount Olympus, snatched a glowing ember from their sacred hearth, hid it in a hollow fennel stalk and slipped away, pretending the stalk was a walking stick. He passed it on to men, freeing them from the misery of darkness, cold and ignorance.

This enraged Zeus. Fire had been a critical advantage the gods held over men. Prometheus was chained to a boulder on Mount Caucasus, where each day an eagle tore open his flesh and feasted upon his liver.

WHO COULD doubt that Jerry West was one of the gods? He levitated West Virginia to the NCAA title game in 1959, tying a tournament record with 160 points in five games. He co-captained the U.S. to the Olympic gold medal in Rome a year later. Among retired NBA players, only three—Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor—averaged more than his 27.0 points a game, and only one, Jordan, surpassed his 29.1 playoff scoring average; just imagine those numbers if there had been the three-point shot. Jerry produced perhaps the most statistically stunning game the NBA has ever seen, a quadruple double before such a thing existed: 44 points on 16-for-17 shooting from the field and 12 for 12 from the foul line, 12 rebounds, 12 assists and 10 unofficially counted blocked shots. And he was a shooting guard. He was an All-Star in each of his 14 Lakers seasons and remains tied for second, after Karl Malone, with 10 selections to the All-NBA first team. He's the logo, for God's sake. That white-silhouetted figure dribbling on the NBA brand—that's him.

Then, unlike the other gods, he retired and became something greater: the architect of Lakers teams that went to eight NBA Finals and won four of them, the general manager whom many consider the best in NBA history.

It would have been so easy, at 73, to tally it all up in a memoir like the books of the other gods, one that bounces from exploit to exploit in a double career containing more seminal moments than that of any other man in the history of his sport. From his epic six NBA Finals wars with the Celtics in the 1960s to the 63-foot shot he nailed in the '70 Finals to the NBA-record 33-game winning streak he spearheaded in '71--72 to the triple-title Showtime Lakers he helped build as G.M. in the '80s to his lightning-strike acquisitions of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the summer of '96, setting off another title run.

Instead... .

Instead he anguished for more than three years co-writing a book with Jonathan Coleman—West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life—that's choking with the truth about the fire that made him a god.

WHY SHOULDN'T Jerry tell mortals the truth about fire? He needn't fear Prometheus's fate—he's been devouring himself all his life. Like that night in Honolulu during training camp, recounted in the book, when, as G.M., Jerry took 15 members of the Lakers' front office and scouting department to dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House and returned his steak to the kitchen twice because it wasn't cooked as he'd requested. He insisted on eating it when the cook got it wrong a third time, insisted on paying for it even when the manager told him there would be no charge, insisted that he would never come back again if he were not charged ... but then was so incensed when he was charged that he walked out of the restaurant, leaving his 15 guests in awkward silence, and returned with four cheesecakes from a nearby restaurant for everyone to eat right in front of the bewildered manager. He'd go back to his hotel room or his home after nights like that and lie awake, feeding kindling to the glowing embers, turning slights into flaming grudges. Blazes too magnificent for any steak-house manager but just right to roast an opposing guard or general manager.

One thousand one hundred seventy-eight days and nights sitting in his socks and jock and shorts in pregame locker rooms, sweat pouring from his skin, stomach about to heave up the small meal he'd risked 6½ hours earlier, hearing nothing his coaches ever said, burning so much energy that he'd feel lifeless by the opening tip, then waiting, watching as the game began. "Just hoping someone on the other team would say something, anything, even something small and stupid, to piss you off," he says, moving to the edge of a couch in the house in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where he lives three months of each year as a break from L.A. "You'd want to embarrass that person. You'd turn from a player who was competing to a person who was a monster. That anger was like having mental steroids. Driven to the point of being crazy. I'm not sure I loved the game. I loved the competition. I'd think, I've got to get it out, but how can I take this out on someone who's an equal, someone of equal size, so it's fair?"

Another gifted athletic jerk? Oh, no: Most of the players beside and beneath him during his five decades of combat loved his humility and authentic interest in them and his bottomless respect for the game, cherished him just as much as they were mystified by him. Odd, what Magic Johnson said to the man who was his general manager, not his coach, when the Lakers unveiled a 14-foot bronze statue of Jerry outside the Staples Center last February: "Everything we did as a team, we did because of you."

Odd, what a man with his own 14-foot bronze statue says in his new book: People will ask, "When does the healing begin?" and I say it never begins.

Or maybe not so odd. Another fine question for the roomful of gods.

But selfhood itself was born in an act of defiance—if Jerry allowed that to flicker out now, why then... .

He can't show you his last childhood home in that little mining town in that little hollow in the Alleghenies. Fire took it all away. A frying pan that was spitting oil set a kitchen curtain ablaze while his mother and sister watched American Bandstand one day in 1962, during Jerry's second season with the Lakers, and the Wests' home went up in flames, incinerating all his memorabilia except his gold medal and Olympic uniform: good, better that way. Many of his later keepsakes and awards, he would leave behind when he moved out of a house in L.A. that he had rented from Pat Riley, telling Riley to do with them whatever the hell he wished. They're in a Miami storage bin today.

It was never about rewards or memories or fame or, hell, the game itself. Why, he wasn't even practicing, he says of the hour upon hour he spent on a beat-down dirt yard shooting at a hoop a neighbor had nailed to a storage shed in Chelyan, W.Va. Shooting alone, from every conceivable angle, even when the dirt went to mud. Shooting till his hands cracked and bled in the cold. Shooting with a higher and higher release point so the imaginary defender covering him couldn't possibly deflect his shot as he ticked down the final 3-2-1 of a game in his head. Shooting alone at a netless wire basket that he later attached to a bridge, shooting with perfect backspin to make sure the ball would swish and rotate back toward him rather than roll down an embankment, shooting by sighting on the two hooks farthest away from him on the rim, a visual cue he'd use the rest of his life—"How did I figure that out on my own?" he wonders. Shooting clean through his mother's cries that she'd whip him if he didn't come home for dinner ... but don't dare call it practicing: "I was just afraid to go home." Afraid not of Cecile's whippings, even though she was big, broad-shouldered, man-strong; no, those were a lark. Afraid of his.

Father's. Howard West would come home to his wife and six children from Pure Oil in nearby Cabin Creek, where he was a machine operator and union activist, so head-to-toe black that Cecile would make him remove his clothes before he stepped inside. Then he'd sink into his chair, barely speaking to her—Jerry can't remember their ever showing affection for each other—and sink into sleep. But when he roused... .

Suddenly the boy might find himself pinned beneath the man, whippings turning into beatings. There was plenty in the world to be angry at. Howard was locked in a marriage to a depressed woman whom he had betrayed, reeling into poverty after being fired as a result of his union activities at Pure Oil and spinning in grief over the death of his third child, 21-year-old David, in 1951.

Jerry's eyes, 60 years later, still grow wet at the utterance of his brother's name. It was as if he had an aura about him, Jerry writes. David, nine years older, was so calm, kind, devout and mature ... the shine in his perfectionist mother's eye, the boy who lifted everyone's spirits and lowered everyone's guard and made Jerry keep thinking that if only he could be like David, maybe he too could feel his parents' love, maybe he could stop feeling there was something wrong with him.

David's effect upon his infantry mates in Korea was no different. The Preacher, they called him, staying near him when they came under fire, convinced that God wouldn't take that godly a man—until He did. Mortar shell. Amputation. Raging infection.

Jerry, a 13-year-old coming home just after the telegram arrived, heard the pounding as he approached the front door. It was the fists of his mother as she beat the walls. When they didn't collapse, she staggered outside to pound the earth.

For six months the family awaited David's body. Weeks of Jerry running to the post office in Cabin Creek to fetch the mail and freezing at the sight of another late-to-arrive loving letter from David. Months of Jerry's mother plunging deeper into depression, pulling Jerry in her wake as he watched her recede from him and from life. "I turned my back on my family," he says. "For me, it went from anger to futility. I didn't understand why I didn't get killed. The thing I used to say to myself all the time was, What did I do wrong for this to happen? ... I'd think, I bet they wish David lived and I died."

He stopped eating, spiraling into a depression that no one identified. He kept shooting right through dinner, dreading the man at the head of the table and recoiling from the food his mother scraped together. His skin took on the texture of a plucked chicken's. Once, after six straight days of the same soup, he told his mother he couldn't bear it anymore, and his father beat him so long and hard that Jerry drew a line. He had to take everything miserable in his childhood, all the grief and rage he couldn't talk about with anyone, and turn it into a weapon, one that would require so much vigilance to wield that he would never be able to relax and would rarely feel joy for the rest of his life. If his father ever laid a hand on him again, Jerry told him, he would take the Remington .410 Single Shot shotgun from under his bed and turn it on him. In that instant, on that lonely ledge, the lost boy found some sort of footing.

"I became defiant," he says. "You couldn't get in trouble where I grew up, but if I'd lived in a big city, I've always wondered if I'd have ended up in prison." Now the work on the beat-down dirt court grew deadly serious, the construction of another home, a perfect one, hinging it on a jump shot more classic and clean than a Roman arch and furnishing it with all manner of moves and fakes and spins, a structure so airtight that not even the bleak fatalism of his poor mining community could enter it, so impeccable that not even his father could defile it ... a place where the wrong son didn't die. When he wasn't in there, he ran everywhere he went, roaming the mountain woods alone or fishing the Kanawha, the last silhouette on the bank of the river, refusing to give up even as darkness fell and the catfish circled around his solitude.

He began sprouting by his junior year of high school. Long arms, big ears, high-pitched voice, ill-fitting clothes, quick-to-burn cheeks. The gangly kid on whom other kids' mothers smelled desperation for a hug. Flushing with envy and shame on all those frozen nights when he had to thumb rides for the five-mile trip home from practices at East Bank High. But here they came, flashes of basketball instincts forged—no, not in the crucible of asphalt courts and white-hot competition that produced the peers he'd one day meet at the game's highest levels, but in the smithy of his imagination, alone with those netless rims and those mountains and woods and the river.

He made all-conference that junior year, got more votes than anyone else despite playing on a 13--13 team, but somehow was left on the honorable-mention heap for the all-state team, looking up at all-staters who'd gotten fewer votes than he for the all-conference team. He was bewildered, crushed, but never said a word, licking his lips when he was selected to the Boys State program a few months later and saw those all-staters there, feeling his heart thump when two of them picked teams for a game and he was one of the last chosen. Here it came, all that anger he'd been warehousing at a father and a brother's death and a grimly silent home. Here it came, the first significant use of fire. He torched those all-staters that day. He went home knowing that he was the best player in West Virginia. He went home seeing, for the first time, his way out.

He carried East Bank to the state title his senior year, averaging 41 in the semifinal and final. The town, in his honor, decreed that for one day its name would change to West Bank. His father came to one game to see his suddenly golden child, got into an altercation with a fan and so embarrassed Jerry that he ordered his mother to never let him come again.

Which is very different from being done with him.

Close your eyes at the end of this paragraph. What happened next, the wind shear when in 1960 Jerry went from the hollows to Hollywood ... picture if it had occurred today, a half-century later. Picture Oscar Robertson and Jerry emerging from college as co-captains of the Olympic gold medal team, the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the draft, the black city kid and the white country boy, the Big O and Zeke from Cabin Creek, the two best perimeter players in the NBA almost from Day One: the Magic and Larry of their time. Picture the cameras and microphones trailing Jerry, as they now trail Kobe and LeBron, everywhere he went, because of where he nearly always went: to the NBA Finals, six times in his first nine years, each time against the dynasty Celtics. Picture the withdrawn country kid who'd built and holed up in that second home, that perfect place, having to face today's 24-hour multimedia spin cycle leading into and out of all those Finals ... when he lost every one of them. Oh, the hounding and mockery, the sneering nicknames ...

Jerry West's nickname was Mr. Clutch.

Such simpler and gentler times, those were, for everyone—everyone but Jerry. The paradoxes piled higher and higher. The blushing introvert as sudden hero, hitting impossible shots late in games again and again. The social outcast who hated being singled out or hoisted up, ending up there over and over ... till the ultimate last moment, the postseason's final game. Coming early for practices and morning shootarounds to rehearse that moment, still the lonely kid clicking off 3-2-1 in his head, perfecting three different release points to cover every contingency or dropping his head and driving and replicating the pool-table spins that he'd watched his Hall of Fame teammate Elgin Baylor create with ball and glass. For someone as anxious as I am, he writes in his book, how calm I would get near the end of a game. Everything would become quieter and slower ... until it all became louder and faster, a train in the tunnel of his head as soon as 3-2-1 struck 0. After road games he'd duct-tape the blinds of his hotel windows, desperate for sleep that wouldn't come. After home games he'd drive till 4 a.m., anywhere, nowhere, the beaten kid beating himself up—if he forgave himself, what would happen to the flame that had given him life?

Here was the shadow side of fire, the risk that came when identity and game were built upon grudge. He had to keep producing new ones, had to take everything personally. When Jerry's opponents failed to provide them, there was always ... hell, his own coach: Fred Schaus, who had the gall to humiliate him in front of Lakers teammates and fine him $100 for violating a no-golf-on-game-day rule when word got in the papers in 1965 that Jerry had nailed a hole in one. Jerry had to show up Schaus when the squad scrimmaged the next day, refusing to take a single shot, had to prove him wrong by dropping another 40 or 45 the next time it counted. Or, hell, Jerry's own in-laws, who had the gall to give the impression that their daughter, Jane, whom he'd met at college, had married beneath their social status. Or, hell, a city: To this day, since he retired as a player, he has never set foot in Boston. Someone once described Jerry as a man who forgets everything—except a grudge. A man who needed someone, anyone, to play fill-in, to replace the original source of fire, especially after a heart attack took away his father in '67. Something, anything to keep him on the court through nine broken noses, through a groin tear so severe that he barely slept for three months, through a hamstring pull that turned him into a one-legged man in Game 7 of the '69 Finals—a uniped with 13 rebounds, 12 assists and 42 points—and through so many pain-numbing pregame and halftime injections that pioneer sports doctor Robert Kerlan called Jerry the "craziest competitor" he'd ever seen.

Never mind the atrial fibrillation: all those times the stress sent his heart into crazy drumbeats that could last for days or weeks, his breath cascading into rapid, shallow gulps that left him ventilating into paper bags at halftime to keep from fainting, his thoughts stampeding until it was impossible for him to sit still and concentrate, his depression so dark he wouldn't speak to his wife for a week, wouldn't utter hello or goodbye to anyone, wouldn't desire anything except for a sleep from which he'd never awake. "You feel like you're in a forest at midnight," he says. "There have been a number of moments when I haven't wanted to live, when I felt so hopeless. Nights I went to bed and hoped I wouldn't wake up. Suicide? It isn't a coward's way out, like people say. It would take enormous courage. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm just telling the truth. You'd probably never know I was in it, I mask it so well."

His depression nearly annihilated him after that sixth straight NBA Finals loss, in 1969, that monster one-legged game that the Celts won by two, Bill Russell's swan song. I wanted to quit basketball in the worst way, West writes. I honestly didn't think I could endure any more pain. Every night I went to bed I thought about it. Every night. Every goddamn night. It was the most helpless feeling because I was sure I was going to be labeled a loser forever.

He was named the MVP of the Finals anyway—the only losing player ever accorded that honor—and flew to New York City to receive the Dodge Charger that came with it. An idea crept into his mind that he couldn't shake. He wanted to place a stick of dynamite in the car, right there in mid-Manhattan, and blow it to pieces.

Here's where Tiger and Magic could speak to the roomful of gods. About sex. About forgetting. About the need for the 10, 20, 30 minutes of oblivion that a woman could provide, the silencing of the mind's din, the furnace's shutdown switch. It was the summer of '69 in L.A., for God's sake ... but isn't it always for the gods? Even ones with a wife and three sons? That is when I started to get out of control, began doing whatever I could to ease the pain. It became a sickness and it became my way of coping... . I would lose myself in women, a lot of women.

And yet, for the seventh time, he took his team to the Finals in 1970, this time against the Knicks. For the seventh time he lost. O.K., eighth if you count the NCAA Finals loss to Cal—and he did. What was going on here? It was as if his father, every spring, were being proved right. As if Jerry really did carry some hidden defect.

A strange thing happened in May 1972. Jerry played the worst NBA Finals of his life. The Lakers beat the Knicks in five. Jerry was a champion! Hooray... ? "I never felt the fulfillment when we won," he says. "All I thought about was all the times we'd lost. It'll haunt me till I die."

One for the road—an eighth Finals loss in 1973, again against the Knicks—and the fire had finally reduced everything inside him to ashes. He took off his uniform after a preseason game in the autumn of '74, at age 36, and handed it to trainer Frank O'Neill. He was done.

His eyes lit on another woman two months later, a Pepperdine cheerleader named Karen Bua, at her school's basketball banquet, where Jerry had been invited to speak. She was gorgeous and had empathetic eyes, and he was free-falling through the void of life without games, weary of the flesh carnival and his all-but-disintegrated marriage, and he had to get this out, this thing in him, before it devoured him. Her eyes widened as this stranger sat beside her and told her everything. He was the saddest man she'd ever met, she says, and within a few years they were married.

The logo, created in 1969 and modeled on a photo of Jerry, was apt in a way that the NBA couldn't have dreamed: a white ghostlike figure, frozen forever on the run. But a Buddhist artist would've sketched that phantom a different way. The Hungry Ghosts of Buddhism have pinhole mouths, long necks so thin that they can't swallow and absurdly bloated bellies—forever starving but unable to eat, forever seeking gratification from old needs never met. The fate of most of the gods.

They often try coaching when they're done playing, just as Jerry did, but that never works. No one on their teams is ever as gifted as they; that, they can bear, their egos permit it. But no one's as insatiable as they; that, they can't bear.

Jerry coached the Lakers from 1976 to '79, getting them into the playoffs all three seasons. Insufficient. His angst only grew now that he couldn't inflict it physically on an opponent. In West by West, Pat Riley, who joined the Lakers' broadcast team in '77, remembers seeing the look on Jerry's face as he stood on a 15th-floor hotel balcony after a loss to the Kings, and saying three words to him: "Don't do it."

So why, in that other realm ill-suited to gods—as general manager—was he a master? His game, far more than the other gods', had been born of solitude and imagination; his mind's eye saw things that theirs couldn't. It was like working on the intricate jigsaw puzzles that his family always had going on a table near the fireplace in his childhood, puzzles he'd make sure to "win" by keeping a few pieces hidden under the rug or in his pocket. He could picture how the players he was evaluating fit into the larger scheme, the subtle aspects of their games that might flower in the Lakers' system and who they would be three years down the road. He understood something about fire, sensed that greatness usually grew from pain, so he wanted to see the player he was scouting in pain, playing his worst game: Did he want to kill? What was in his eyes and in his body language if he were removed from the game? Could he will his way to the foul line during such misery, rediscover his shooting rhythm there? If his skills were ordinary, did he do something seemingly small—like grab the ball coming through the net, jab one foot out-of-bounds and inbound it swiftly—the way Kurt Rambis did, turning a teammate's defensive failure into another Lakers fast break? Manacled with lower picks by the Lakers' success, Jerry found A.C. Green and Vlade Divac under the draft rug and pulled Bob McAdoo, Mychal Thompson and Robert Horry out of his trading pocket to keep the powerhouse humming. "It's like seeing a pretty woman," he says. "Someone else might not see she's pretty because of how she's dressed or wearing her hair. Maybe she'd be pretty in a different position or situation. Maybe she's pretty in ways that aren't obvious at first. Maybe she's beautiful inside."

His humility was as critical as his eagle eye. He could stand quietly on the edges and observe his players, figure out what their egos needed, and supply it. He could keep Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from checking out when Kareem felt Riley grew overbearing and too much spotlight swung to Magic Johnson, defuse Shaq's and Kobe's squabbles when they were about to detonate the franchise, take James Worthy aside to remind him that his five-year contract allowed him to be traded at any time. The G.M. who could vanish right in front of his wife's and children's eyes was the first one to ask his players how their families were doing, the first one at their homes if a loved one were sick or dying, all with a caring and vulnerability in his eyes that was so unusual in a god and that dissolved into tears when it came time to release or trade them. "I have never seen anybody so passionate and who cares so much," Worthy, one of the stars on the Showtime Lakers, says in West by West. "He internalizes his thoughts so much, it looks like pain." When the Lakers won, Jerry deferred all the credit to his players and coaches and was nowhere to be found at the championship parades. At banquets where praise and pedestals lurked, he paid valets to keep his car nearest to the door so he could vanish.

Showtime ended. Five years went by without a trip to the Finals. The heartbeats got crazier, the breathing shallower in the summer of '96 as Jerry sunk hooks into the two biggest fish he'd ever attempted to reel in: Shaq in Orlando and Kobe coming out of high school. He drove himself to the brink with all the behind-the-scenes baiting and luring of agents and players, finally hauling in the catch ... and landed in a hospital. He lay there for three days as doctors tried to stop the cascade of palpitation, plummeting blood pressure, exhaustion and clinical depression. He tried psychotherapy briefly, three times, but he didn't really believe in it, couldn't risk a script change in the narrative he'd been telling himself all his life.

It took four years for Kobe to ripen. By then Jerry couldn't bear to watch meaningful games, spending them adrift on freeways, in the darkness of movie theaters or in the stadium tunnel talking to black security guards—the outcast had always felt an instinctive bond with African-Americans. Nothing broke the darkness, not the generous checks that Jerry wrote to help people get their kids through college, not the two or three books a week that he buried himself in. His second marriage nearly shredded.

He resigned at age 62 amid the euphoria of the Lakers' 2000 championship, convinced that coach Phil Jackson and owner Jerry Buss didn't need him around. "I was like a drug addict who overdosed," he says. "I couldn't function. I couldn't relate to people close to me. Winning was a sickness. It's an attempt to create your own perfect world."

Do not serve coffee to the roomful of gods. "Coffee makes me nervous," Jerry says. "Everything makes me nervous. My head is way too busy. It's amazing what's going through my head as I talk to you. I'm trying to answer a question, and entering my mind are all these things I shouldn't be aware of. I could not sleep last night... ."

What becomes of a god when his hair turns white and the games recede? He fishes with friends, wishing to God he didn't have to catch the biggest fish—yearning, in fact, to write the winner's check to someone else because he loves seeing someone else enjoy—but usually catching it anyway. He returns to the NBA in 2002 and takes a punch-line franchise, the Grizzlies, to three playoff appearances, gets named Executive of the Year again and then pulls away when the blowback scorches him again in '07. He plays gin with friends. He takes a blood thinner, Xanax and Prozac each day. He wolfs down dinner in about eight minutes—that meal still carries too much cargo—and then becomes either the most vibrant of conversationalists, eager to share and add to his vast knowledge of the world, or the remote man whom Karen and their two adult sons steer a circle around. He golfs, but not as much as he used to back when he broke the Bel-Air Country Club record with a 28 on the back nine, and broke the Bel-Air record for broken clubs. He accepts an offer from the Golden State Warriors in May 2011 to join their executive board as an adviser, to see if there's any way to do this from a safer distance, so he can go back to searching for those rare players who have ... what, exactly?

I have always believed in the notion of gold dust, he writes, of there being something so innate in a person that it can't easily be defined, something that propels you onward and keeps you fighting, no matter what, until the bitter end.

There it is. The gods' contradiction. Their refusal to connect the dots. The gold dust is the sickness. The fire is the hurt and the anger stuck to their flypaper skin. And so on they roam, turning it all outward to the end, seeking release over blackjack tables or $10,000 putts or female bodies ... all except for one of them, uneasy with the summit where the gods live, returning ever inward, to the bottom of the hollows. Driven to say what no one else in that room would.

"Most people just want to write a book about their exploits," he says. "I wanted none of that. I did it to show people I'm not who they think I am. I'm a very flawed person. I'm hopeful it can be an inspiration, to show that you don't need support or encouragement, that you can find a way. I'm more at peace with myself now. Getting out the things I've kept inside for so many years.

"And yet I'm fighting the same battles inside. I see people who are calm, I see people laughing and happy, and I think, Oh, my God, I wish I could be like that. If I knew how, I'd be the happiest person in the world, because everything else has fallen in place for me. This should be a time of freedom. I've led a charmed life externally but not internally.

"If there'd just been love in my house growing up. But I'd rather have had the career I did than have the peace of mind. I couldn't have had both. I'll take the trade. At times I felt special."

Two things happened not long ago. Jerry pulled the cord to undrape that bronze 14-foot statue, and he immediately turned his head away. A friend sent him a book about how to forgive your father, and he turned away once more.