Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope – John Saunders, John U. Bacon
Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope – 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.
A story that merits both sympathy and attention. – Kirkus Reviews
An inspiring call to action about mental illness. – Sports Illustrated
For sports fans and anyone who has struggled with depression. – Library Journal
The book…isn’t a puffy portrait of the long-time fixture on ABC’s college football coverage and ‘The Sports Reporters’-though it’s true Saunders was one of the most-liked sportscasters on ESPN through his career. This book explores Saunders’ off-camera struggles, which included the events surrounding his life-long battle with depression…Readers will learn so many things about Saunders they would have never expected to hear-and they will also gain a better understanding of the day-to-day lives of people with depression. Saunders proves it’s not what you think. – Sporting News
In this book, Saunders gives an astoundingly honest account of his lifelong struggle with depression…Playing Hurt makes it clear that depression doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care about your race, gender, age, family background, professional success, or anything else like that. This book also does an amazing job of saying to readers who suffer from this illness, You are not alone, which is a message that can never be stated often enough…The honesty of this book, especially for such a public figure (who assumed he’d be alive when it was eventually published), is breathtaking…Playing Hurt is a gripping story, it is an emotional story, and above all else, it is an important story. It is not hyperbole to say that this book will save lives. It is a must-read. – Clearing Out the Clutter
[A] moving chronicle of [Saunders’] struggle…Readers will ache for him as he struggles to overcome brain trauma while still battling depression. This is a tough read; there’s a lot of pain on the pages. But, as Saunders promised in his preface, there’s a kind of hope as well.―Booklist
This is an important book. Parts will leave you shaken, others will inform you, still others will uplift you. Playing Hurt is the final act of grace in John’s remarkable life, so we may learn of the toll of depression, the need for diagnosis and treatment, and the hope that awaits.―Bob Ley, host of ESPN’s Outside the Lines, winner of 11 Emmy Awards
For 30 years, my friend John Saunders earned my admiration for his understated demeanor, his top-of-the-line professionalism, his Old World ways, and his gentle yet warm smile and laughter. I’m sure those who never met him except through TV felt the exact same way. After reading Playing Hurt, my respect for him has increased exponentially. So will yours. Thank you, John.―Chris Berman, legendary ESPN broadcaster
Playing Hurt is John Saunders’s personal, poignant story of how he responded to childhood traumas, abuse, clinical depression, an array of head traumas, sports injuries, suicidal thoughts, and excessive use of prescribed medications throughout his life. His hard-learned message: when depression strikes, it is a sign of real strength to talk and turn to family, friends, and experts. – John F. Greden, MD, Founding Chair, National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC)
Playing Hurt is a public service. Here is a trusted friend, a man who has spent so many hours in our living rooms, providing an education about brain injury, about depression, and the symbiosis between the two. Knowing he died so soon after he emerged from this fog is heartbreaking. Playing Hurt is a testament to John and the hidden struggles he overcame. – Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com, six-time winner Best Writing, Football Writers Association
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.
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