Moon autobiography refreshingly honest, includes warts and all
The Edmonton Journal
Sports Byline: Dan Barnes
There is a distinctly American perception of Warren Moon that doesn't quite jibe with ours.
"When you think of Warren Moon, you think of 71,000 yards, no Super Bowl and you think of that night. Unfortunately, a lot of people do," said former sports writer and Sports Illustrated associate editor Don Yaeger.
When Edmonton sports fans of a certain vintage think about Moon, they focus on five straight Grey Cup titles, a Schenley Award, induction in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and on the Eskimo wall of honour.
Given all that he accomplished in Green and Gold, that night isn't top of mind.
It was July 18, 1995, and its events led to Moon's arrest on a charge of domestic abuse. Moon's then-wife Felicia refused to testify against him at the 1996 trial and he was acquitted after a jury deliberated for 27 minutes. She consistently stated he was trying not to hurt her as they wrestled on the floor of their Missouri City, Texas, house after she hit him in the back of the head with a candle holder during a dispute over her credit card spending.
Moon's recollections of that sorry episode form the basis of a telling chapter in his autobiography, Never Give Up on Your Dream, which was written with Yaeger and is due for release on the Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend in August.
Entitled Not Perfect, the chapter assumes the reader knows something about that night and begins with a mea culpa.
"Both privately and publicly I have expressed regret and remorse for exposing my four children to this inexcusable behaviour," he writes.
It falls woefully short of a restated apology to Felicia and that is curious, but the chapter stands out primarily for its inclusion in the 272-page memoir and was intended to do just that.
"It was the chapter he was most engaged in," said Yaeger, who has written 15 other books, including Walter Payton's autobiography.
"One of the interesting things about Warren, he'd had opportunities to do previous autobiographies, but didn't feel comfortable with the structure proposed or whatever it was. One thing I am good at is getting them to say, 'Here I am, warts and all.' "Unfortunately so many autobiographies are glowing and leave out large chunks of life when things aren't going well." That night hastened the end of their 20-year marriage and embarrassed Warren, Felicia and their children. Things could not have been going much worse. Though the ratio of explanation to apology in that chapter is out of whack, and he takes a couple of gratuitous swipes at media coverage of the affair, Not Perfect and another chapter called More Relaxed, which delves into his recent attendance in therapy, are testament to Moon's honest approach with the book. That it was exhaustively researched is a credit to Yaeger, who was particularly thorough when it came to the events of July 18, 1995.
"I talked to everyone in the house that night," Yaeger said Monday from his consulting office in Tallahassee, Fla.
"I also talked to his brother and sisters and mother. I talked to a lot of people with whom he interacted during that time." One of them was Felicia. In the book, a since remarried Moon touches on his relationship with his ex-wife.
"Now, in no way can I justify the way that I acted toward her, and I'm not trying to. But Felicia and I have remained good friends even after our divorce, because we have a tremendous respect for each other.
I try to point this out whenever anyone tries to paint me as a monster that attacked my spouse." It sounds like something divorced celebrities say about one another, but it's apparently true.
"Absolutely," said Yaeger, "and that kind of blew me away a bit. She's way beyond it. She was there for the Hall of Fame induction. She is as great a fan as he could have." There is plenty on the pages for Moon fans who want to know about his Pop Warner days in Los Angeles and the ins and outs of contract negotiations with Houston, and Edmontonians will delight in his treatment of our city.
But the lifeblood of a good autobiography is honesty and this book delivers. It isn't merely a recitation of Moon's all-time quarterbacking stats, the well-documented issue of race, or a litany of locker-room anecdotes strung together to preserve his legacy as a Hall of Famer in two countries. Though the challenges of his starry CFL/NFL career are covered, Yaeger gets Moon to go so much further that we actually meet the man we have known mostly as a player.
Due to circumstance, Moon's story was 21/2 years in the writing, since Yaeger was concurrently working on two other books, including one detailing the Duke lacrosse rape case. He is equally proud of this one.
"I'd put this book right there at the very top with Walter Payton and books like Duke lacrosse. They're social fabric books, they're not just autobiographies. That's what Warren wanted. It was an opportunity to do something that had a larger context."