Bobby Blair’s Hiding Inside the Baseline is the compelling, must-read story about a young boy from a poor family—incredibly supportive mother, alcoholic father—who begins working towards becoming one of the top tennis prospects in the country. Hard enough, right? Add to this challenge Bobby’s growing awareness, from the age of 13 years old, that he is gay. So for all its great detail about the tennis world, Hiding Inside the Baseline becomes a story primarily about the three simple words it would take Bobby Blair more than thirty years to say to the tennis community: “I am gay.” His struggle becomes whether to hide the fact that he is gay, no matter how great the emotional, the psychic costs. Should I hide the truth from my friends, including two serious girlfriends (one in college and one after college)? Should I hide the truth from my teammates, my coach, the media, etc? Given the costs, and very real risks, of coming out at the time (the 1980s and 90s), many would have chosen to live a lie in order to protect their livelihood. They would have damaged their own integrity, hurt others around them, hid the truth from everyone. This is the story of Bobby Blair.
Nick Bollettieri calls you over to play some young unknown kid named Andre Agassi who kept smacking bullets for winners. You become the #6 player in the country playing for the University of Arkansas. You have the biggest win of your career when you beat Pat Cash the year before he won Wimbledon, then you begin to panic, avoiding the media at all costs, trying to hide everything about your private life. As he grew older, the only place Bobby Blair felt he could fully relax was within pockets of the largely hidden gay community. Like many other gay males back then, he came to live an intense double life. He was “Mark from Florida” at night, “Bobby Blair” the tennis player during the day. He also saw firsthand how many young gay men suffered from being outcasts in their society, often escaping by turning to alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy sexual relationships.
In his foreword to Hiding Inside the Baseline, Nick Bollettieri writes: “The timing is perfect for Bobby’s book. It might serve as a catalyst for another generation of youngsters to trust that they can reach their potential if they only remain true to themselves.” With the inclusion of almost 50 letters of support from friends and family and colleagues, many of them quite moving, Bobby Blair makes it clear that “coming out with pride and dignity would have happened for me years ago if I knew I would have been this loved and supported.” In sharing his story, then, Bobby Blair hopes to “build a bridge between two parties that hardly know each exist. The scared, closeted athlete and those among the straight, tolerant, loving, and accepting culture that surrounds their every step.”
Check out the book. Share it with others. Walk a few miles in a gay male athlete’s shoes. Let’s help Bobby Blair build that bridge.
Hiding Inside the Baseline, by Bobby Blair and Barry Buss, is available at Amazon and elsewhere.
Bobby Blair (born October 24, 1964) is a former professional tennis player from the United States. Blair was one of the top junior tennis players of his country. He was an All-American at the University of Arkansas and participated in the 1986 Goodwill Games. Blair is gay. In 2014, he authored of a memoir titled Hiding Inside the Baseline, about his personal journey as a gay athlete who did not come out until his late forties. (Taken from Wikipedia)
Barry Buss is the author of a junior tennis memoir titled “First In A Field of Two.” He can be reached at Barrybuss1964@yahoo.com for all sorts of future writing projects.
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