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If Agassi’s motives true, his image can endure

You might remember that ESPN awhile back ran a series centered on the Mt. Rushmore of Sports, ranking the most influential figures in each state’s history. It was a chore for many to identify the top four. Ohio didn’t have room for Oscar Robertson, LeBron James, Jim Brown or Johnny Bench.

Ohio must be like the Grand Poobah of these things.

Nevada didn’t own such issues. Its lineup could have been decided in the time it takes Oscar Goodman to mix a martini. There wasn’t even much of a debate as to whose image first should be memorialized.

It’s about Andre Agassi and everyone else.

I’m guessing that truth now will be tested.

Suddenly, Greg Maddux doesn’t appear such a distant second, which I’m sure will excite him enough to play 54 holes of golf a day instead of 36, after which he will say he is just honored to be in the company of such greatness, or something along those predictable lines.

I didn’t blink at Agassi’s admission of using crystal meth for the better part of 1997 and lying about it to dodge disciplinary action by his sport’s governing body. I wasn’t shocked at the idea his father was “violent by nature.”

Let’s see. A highly successful and wealthy athlete at age 27 used drugs, proved deceitful in avoiding punishment and was the product of an overbearing parent.

It’s also true Steve Wynn can afford to double down on the next few hands and that the housing market continues to struggle.

More and more stones are being tossed in Agassi’s direction daily since excerpts of his autobiography “Open” have been released. What a shock. Everyone has an opinion. Nothing brings out the sanctimonious blabber in us like another’s dark and sordid moments.

Former pole vaulter and now International Olympic Committee member Sergei Bubka even went as far to suggest Agassi should be punished for his actions 12 years ago. Thanks for checking in, Sergei. Martina Navratilova is on line 3 for you.

What will be interesting to see — once the transparent media campaign makes its way through a national journey and Agassi finally finds a few minutes to speak locally about his book — is how a city so grateful for his humanitarian ways reacts to his admissions.

“He had a pretty squeaky-clean image to a lot of people here,” said Tim Blenkiron, a UNLV Hall of Famer and coach to local female pro Asia Muhammad. “Now, a cloud has been thrown over that. I’m a little perplexed about it, to be honest. He is being brutally honest. Knowing him, I would think he wants to show people that no matter how far you fall, there is the ability to climb back out of that hole and do some wonderful things.

“People are going to spin it whichever way they want. Some will admire him for overcoming what he did, and others will throw him under the bus. I assume this will sell a lot of books, and I think people (locally) will want to know if the money will go back to things like his school or other (charitable outlets). I’d like to hear his take on that.”

Everyone would. It is not Agassi’s duty to use a penny of a reported $5 million advance or future earnings on book sales for anything beyond adding to his personal fortune, but it sure would make this entire tale easier to understand.

Here’s hoping all of this has some purpose other than how often a cash register can open. The man who has given so much locally — Agassi’s foundation has raised tens upon tens of millions for worthy causes — should give more now, because if there is one thing those in Las Vegas have wondered most about the last week, it is not the crystal meth or hairpieces or despising of one’s father.

It is about why.

Why now?

And if we learn Agassi again will use his financial stature, albeit in a much more flawed manner this time, to better the lives of others while exorcizing whatever demons he believes necessary, his motives for writing the book will seem far more commendable.

If not, it all will feel, well, really superficial.

“I’m going to tell my daughter that people make mistakes, that he made them and I did and she certainly will,” said Adam Yee, whose 13-year-old, Kimberly, is the top junior locally. “That he learned from his and became one of the kindest philanthropists there is. I don’t think any of this is going to change how people here view him.

“People make mistakes. They make bad choices. He came out a better man for it.”

It seems as though Andre Agassi’s face today is safe and secure on the state’s version of Mt. Rushmore.

Perhaps when we learn more about his motives, the granite will seem as hard as ever.

That’s what we’re hoping, at least.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on “The Sports Scribes” on KDWN-AM (720) and www.kdwn.com.

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