For sports fans in the US, John Saunders is a familiar name from his years on ESPN. His memoir has been released posthumously, and little did I realize the connection between that and child abuse and mental health struggles, but this review from Mental Health America makes it clear that there is definitely a connection.
When John died suddenly last year, it seemed like the too-typical tragedy of a life lost too young. He died from cardiovascular disease related to diabetes, something that affects men of color in unfair numbers. We noted this, reflected on it for a while, and then moved on.
Not so fast.
As we now know from his new memoir, Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope, co-written with John U. Bacon and published posthumously, there was a whole lot more to John Saunders’ story than this.
John was born and raised in Canada – a very good hockey player with an attitude. He was raised primarily by his mother – and this is where his story gets a little more complex. His father traveled a lot, spent much of his time away from home, and frequently neglected John and his siblings. And when he was present in their lives, the experience for John was frequently physically and mentally traumatic.
In part as a result, John developed significant mental health problems when he was young.
So it seems that this memoir of a former television sports reporter, is also the memoir of a survivor. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.