Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Review: It's Hard for Me to Live with Me (2024)

By Rex Chapman with Seth Davis

Read enough books, and you are bound to come across a story of someone relatively famous who has fallen victim to some sort of addiction. Everyone from Eric Clapton to Dwight Gooden has written down their stories, which can be a form of therapy for some. While accepting the courage that they show in getting down everything on paper, such books are usually less than what we'd call "entertaining."

That brings us to Rex Chapman's book, "It's Hard for Me to Live With Me." It's an extremely readable account of his life to date, which gets him off to a great start in winning over the reader. That's often crucial in autobiographies.

Chapman has carved out a few niches for himself over the years. His first addiction was to basketball, in a sense. It's easy to guess that he thought the sport was a way to gain approval from his father, himself a basketball coach who was distant and who really didn't have much of an idea who to raise a child. The rest of the family had some other problems, leaving basketball as something of a refuge to Rex. Nothing else seems to have mattered to him, and he won a big enough share of the genetic lottery to become very good at the sport. Chapman became a high school star in Kentucky, a state that follows basketball like few others. That drove a wedge between Rex and his sister, who always had to play a lesser role because of her big brother. It also allowed him to get away with behavior that in most cases would be severely punished, but instead drew a half-hearted remark from authority figures who essentially said, "Don't do that again," and then tried to forget about it. 

Chapman soon caught the attention of the University of Kentucky. He originally planned to attend Louisville, but a campus visit quickly showed him that the Wildcats lived like kings. That sounded good to Rex, who wasn't too thrilled about the studying aspect of college anyway. He became a standout at Kentucky, and stayed two seasons before the call of the NBA and its money became too much to avoid. Besides, the Wildcats were headed for trouble in the form of a recruiting scandal.

Along the way, Chapman did receive an education of the ways of the South, even in the 1980s. He had an African-American girlfriend in high school and college, and the two of them learned that the sight of such a couple didn't go over too well in some quarters - so they stayed in a lot. In fact, a couple of times people called Rex in to talk about the relationship and told him to be careful. "We don't care who you date, but there are others out there who won't like it," was the speech. There's still some bitterness there, and deservedly so.

Chapman was a first-round draft choice who was a good scorer; he was always in double-digits in scoring during his 12-year career. The problem was that he often was injured, only playing more than 70 games in a season once in his career (75 as a rookie). He finished with 666 games played in 12 years, which averages out to about 55. Even when he was playing, he often wasn't at 100 percent.

When Chapman was finally done in 2000, you've never seen anyone as ill-prepared to enter a world without basketball and its NBA-sized paychecks. He quickly engaged in activities that were sure to drain a bank account - addition to prescriptions, gambling, divorce, cars, etc. Millions went down those drains. It reached the point where Chapman really did live in his car at times.

Such stories sometimes end in tragedy. In this case, Chapman picks up some work here and there through basketball connections. He also became a very unexpected icon on social media, starting with the posting of fun videos. That led to a series of posts on collisions called "Block or Charge?" He's ridden that to more television work, almost landing a show of his own on CNN at one point. It's reached the point that Chapman's book needed no time at all to reach the best-seller lists upon its release. 

The key point in all of this is that Chapman is honest throughout the book. He writes about how he was always willing to accept "gifts" from Kentucky boosters in the form of $100 (or more) handshakes, or take a little "loan" from them later during tough times. He also labels his Kentucky coach, Eddie Sutton, an alcoholic during Rex's time in Lexington, which is a bit surprising. Chapman is tough on others, but maybe tougher on himself.

The story moves along nicely, and the guess is that the talented Seth Davis, Chapman's co-author, had something to do with that. This can be read in a couple of days rather easily. A couple of sentences get repeated along the way, which is rather amateurish. But you'll get over it.

Chapman comes across in "It's Hard for Me to Live With Me" as someone who played the system surrounding talented athletes for a while, taking advantage of its benefits. However, he was rather blind-sighted by the after-effects of the decisions he made along the way. While Chapman's crash to earth is quite a story, perhaps the lessons we should learn from the pampering of athletes at a young age need to teach us something. In other words, it's an interesting and unusual life story that could have been even longer. But basketball fans will find what he did write down to be worth their time. 

Four stars

Learn more about this book from Amazon.com. (As an Amazon affiliate, I earn money from qualified purchases.)  

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