So, I received Chael Sonnen’s book yesterday. I read half of it last night. (Thanks for keeping me up til 4am. Chael!) I finished the rest today. Finishing a 220 page book in 2 sittings should certainly give you a hint that it’s immensely readable.
If you look at the Amazon page for the book, you don’t really get any sense of what it’s about. It kinda sounds like Chael’s version of a self-help book. You’d also expect it to be about Chael and about MMA. Ummm… kinda but not really.
It starts off with Chael describing what it’s like leading up to a fight -the grueling and often mundane and irritating logistics of it. That is: packing; airport parking and security; worrying whether your cornermen have packed important things like your mouthpiece or just brought dozens of pairs of focus mitts (apparently cornermen are gaga over focus mitts); the hotel; the weigh-ins; and so-on. Of course it’s done with plenty of Sonnen-esque pull-no-punches wit and humor.
The next chapter recounts the life-long lessons that Chael’s school wrestling coach taught him –namely that you don’t make excuses and you fulfill your obligations and if you say you’re going to do something, you do it at all costs. It’s good stuff –funny and inspirational. So, you begin to think, “Okay. This is an autobiography. That’s cool.” …And then comes the chapter extolling Richard Nixon as one of the greatest presidents and, to be fair, Chael makes plenty of valid, intelligent points –perhaps a bit overstated but that can be forgiven since it’s contrary to the stock opinions you usually hear about “Tricky Dick”. But this seems kind of a strange detour in this “autobiography”.
As the book goes on, you get Chael’s opinion on all sorts of topics from the self-serving, self-righteous narcissism that “ChaCha” thinks drives most liberals to why The Godfather films were over-rated and a list of better films from the era. Here’s a chapter on good and bad walk-out songs, here’s one on a prank that his roommate played in college, here’s one on his money-laundering charge… Okay. This is not an autobiography and this is not a self-help book and this is not really about MMA. It’s a collection of essays by Chael P. Sonnen. I kind of wish I had known that going in so I wouldn’t have been perplexed by the jumping around of topics.
So, now that I’ve figured out that it is a book of collected essays, how are those essays? They’re awesome of course. However, if you’re hoping for a book that’s about MMA or about Chael Sonnen, you may be disappointed. It’s more about Chael’s opinions than it’s about Chael. That’s not to say there aren’t parts about MMA and the life of a fighter- he talks about his fight with Anderson, he breaks down various Martial Arts and surmising that they’re all, to varying degrees, silly and worthless except for wrestling –of course. He gets into his TRT issues with the CSAC. But MMA related content probably only makes up roughly half the book.
And that’s also not to say you don’t get a little more insight into Chael as a person. His opinions reveal some of what makes him tick and there are some moments of him recounting embarrassing moments and a touching recounting of some of the values that his late father taught him. But you’re not going to get a soul-bearing autobiography of the man behind the man.
Now as a guy who tends to be more liberal than not I don’t necessarily agree with all of Chael’s viewpoints but when he skewers liberals/hippies, extreme environmentalists, the occupy movement, etc he does so not with the pandering, phony idiocy of a Glenn Beck but with the satiric glee of exposing self-important bullshit ala South Park. In fact, Chael shouts out South Park on a couple of occasions and I suspect that despite identifying himself as a Republican and Conservative, Chael’s politics aren’t that far off from Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s. We’ve all seen them rip into self-righteous liberals not so much for their actual politics but for their smugness and hypocrisy. And while Chael is dead-on when he lambastes people who don’t think for themselves and accept whatever the media tells them to think and substitute vague slogans for actual thoughtful, informed opinion, I would argue that this is something that conservatives and liberals and all manner of political affiliations in between are guilty of. At the end of the day, Chael comes across as a guy that you could have a beer with and debate a lot of issues with and respectfully disagree -but God help you if you tried to throw some self-righteous bullshit into the conversation.
Maybe you don’t give a shit about what Chael thinks about Nixon or The Godfather films, or the occupy movement or walk-out music. Well, then maybe this book isn’t for you. But if you have interests beyond MMA and you enjoy hearing Chael’s articulate and entertaining perspective on things, then 15 bucks for the hardcover at Amazon is a damn steal.