Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ben Cousins My Life Story

I couldn’t help but compare Ben Cousins My Life Story with Matthew Richardson and Martin Flanagan’s Richo, about the only things the 2 have in common is that they’re both football biographies and the subjects of them spent time playing for Richmond Football Club. Whereas Richo is described as ‘not a normal football book’, My Life is very much a 'normal football book'. It essentially chronicles the life and times of Ben Cousins in the man’s own words (I suspect it was ‘ghosted’ by someone though).

I was a little surprised that Cousins decided to call the book My Life Story and not Such Is Life (the final words of bushranger Ned Kelly, Ben called his documentary that, he has the words tattooed across his stomach and he admits to identifying with the legendary bushranger). The early part of the book is pretty much like that of every other footballers biography out there. Brief family history, early years, adolescence, getting picked by an AFL club, fitting in, becoming a decent player, etc… That is until Ben discovers ‘recreational’ drugs.

For almost a decade Cousins managed to avoid detection, although he was regularly using and abusing drugs of dependence. He did this with a mixture of cunning and luck, he also used the somewhat flawed testing system along with it’s 3 strikes policy that the AFL uses to check their players. I suspect many people bought the book for the story of Ben on drugs and the author doesn’t shy away from any of that. I did wonder how he hadn’t managed to accidentally kill himself or completely fry his brain on some of his binges. While he may be hard on himself and remarkably honest about what he was up to during those times, he seems to let a few well known (some were team mates) friends off easily and probably omits certain details about them.

Being a Richmond supporter one part of the book I found of great personal interest were Ben’s views on team captain Chris Newman and former player now assistant coach Wayne Campbell. Because when it comes to how he sees people on pure football terms he doesn’t tend to pull punches it was interesting to see that he has very opinions of both men. Up until this point I wasn’t too sure about Newman’s leadership capabilities or Campbell’s coaching ability. According to Ben I was wrong.

For an honest and confronting account of how someone who had absolutely everything going for them: looks, talent, wealth, money and success, could nearly throw it all away because of an addiction I’d recommend Ben Cousins My Life Story.

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