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Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope
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Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In Playing Hurt, a leading figure in the sports world—the quintessential “man's man,” who seems to have it all—confesses his constant battle with depression and how it nearly cost him his life. John Saunders—stellar athlete and respected sportscaster—welcomes readers into the heart of his desperate struggle against depression: from insights into the illness's root causes t ...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Da Capo Press
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4.46  · 
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 ·  254 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not a typical memoir of a sports figure. In the very beginning, John Saunders talks about his thoughts of suicide by describing a trip across New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River. From there, he opens up about the demons that he lived with while battling depression through his entire life until his death in 2016. This memoir written with John U. Bacon is raw, soul-bearing and a book that a reader will have a hard time putting down.

Saunders was an award-winning broadcaster
Eric Tsai
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Depression does not discriminate, people do.

John Saunders was great at hiding in plain sight. I read this book and feel like there's this whole story that lays under the public sports celebrity that we know, this story of the battle against depression. We didn't know, how could we know, that the fun and entertaining John Saunders was battling demons. Some of us battled the same demons, but we did it from the privacy of our own homes while John battled while on TV. This book brings that battle
Kim. E.
When I picked this book up at the library based on a recommendation from here, I knew there would be parts that would touch what I call my past world. What I didn't expect was to find someone who understood some of my health issues so well, or that I would cry.

John Saunders was a well beloved ESPN sportscaster that I well remember watching over the years. He earned respect, displayed a keen sense of humor, and knew the sports he was covering, therefore being able to teach his audience. But John
Reid Roemmich
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a sad, harrowing story
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It might be strange that a book about abuse and mental illness (which I have not experienced) made me think so deeply about my own life, but it did. It also made me think about those around me who might suffer from either of the above and what they might need from me. This book. A must read. I wish John were still with us to see how many people his book will impact!
Susi Keffer
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m so grateful to John Saunders for bravely sharing his story...

For anyone who suffers or knows someone who suffers from an “invisible illness.” While the focus of the book is John’s lifelong battle with depression, many of the life lessons he shares are applicable to us all. He tells his story with candor, authenticity, and humility; you can’t help but like him and grieve his passing almost as much as his friends and family did.

Do yourself a this book and share it with others. Jo
Sarah Canfield
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mental health issues are becoming less taboo in our culture and it is great to see people opening up about the real struggle with depression that is often underlying people that are successful in their chosen profession. In addition to mental health, this book also covers Saunders' early years in Canada and family life and there are many interesting insights about growing up in the 60's and 70's, hockey, being black in Canada vs. being black in the U.S. and how early childhood trauma can impact ...more
Caleb Parnin
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was quite impactful. How many people struggle with depression, 'playing hurt' through life? This book was a sacrifice of privacy on behalf of John and his family in order to truly help readers.

I will close with this quote from President Obama:
"We wouldn't accept it if only 40 percent of Americans with cancer got treated...We wouldn't accept it if only half of young people with diabetes got help. Why should we accept it when it comes to mental health?" (Saunders 279).

Excellent, excel
Ben A.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As I watched ESPN for many years, John Saunders always seemed in command. Whether he was hosting Sports Reporters, anchoring studio coverage, or in the play-by-play booth, he appeared smooth, confident, and in control. That appearance of control makes Saunders' story of abuse, depression, and constant self-doubt all the more striking. This book was an eye-opening look into the constant struggle, and yet the hope that remains, when living with mental health issues.
Mike Howerton
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. I wasn't aware of what Saunders dealt with in his life. This book was very enlightening. As a sports fan, the stuff about ESPN was interesting, but the details about his battle with depression were what kept me reading.

Anyone with someone close who fights with depression should definitely read this one.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
It's really hard to rate books like this -- how can you say you "really liked it" when it is about someone suffering through such a disease?

A couple of guys on my hockey team had read this book so I thought I'd give it a try. I knew who John Saunders was -- hard not to know if you've watched ESPN in the last 30 years. But I knew nothing about the man: not him being a Canadian or a hockey player; how much he actually did on ESPN (I probably just caught him now and then); nor, of course, his perso
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although this was mostly a sad book to read, it gives an enlightening view into what it may look like to battle depression. John Saunders was a classy professional sportscaster for ESPN, but you'd never know that he was hiding something and battling a constant depression. John gives an intimate view into his abuse as a child, his sexual molestation, his drug use, and other demons that he constantly battled.
If you were a fan of John's sports journalism work, this book gives you a view into his l
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is not uplifting but if you think you have had a tough life then read what John Saunders went through. A rotten father, a mother not much better and a life filled with depression. Still the story casts a really good light on ESPN and Johns's many friends. I couldn't help but chuckle about the description of his heart attack at a party for 200+ friends of Dick Vitale.

Some of the story takes place in Canada and little did I know that John's mother lived in Guelph for a period of time.
Gary Cohen
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great book for understanding how one person battled depression, even when that person had a very public profile. It's a bit painful to read about all the things that John Saunders went through in his life, but well worth the read to get some perspective on both depression and resiliency, and also to learn a little bit more about a prominent sports journalist who reached extraordinary heights with his work for ESPN / ABC.
Dwayne Smith
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great lesson to show us all what may appear to be joyous on the outside one may be in much pain on the inside. What a brave thing for John Saunders to write and expose to the world his most inner struggles. While I admired him as a sportscaster, I have even more admiration for him now. Hopefully, this will encourage those that struggle with mental illness and depression to seek help. What makes it even sadder, is that he left this world way too soon.
Russ Mathers
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tough to read the first half of this book about Saunders' childhood abuse and his poor decisions as a young adult. Good to learn about brain injuries and depression, and about Saunders' experiences as a long time member of ESPN.

The book is well written by John Bacon and Saunders mostly before Saunders' death (from enlarged heart and diabetes) and I didn't want to put it down, in spite of the difficult material during his childhood.
Leya White
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marcia T Wilhelm
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I never watch ESPN and didn't know John Saunders, but I loved this book and wish I could have met him in person. It takes so much courage to be so honest in opening up your life! I gifted this to several friends at Christmas.
Ginni Cook
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It’s not simply a tale of a sports celebrity but it is instead a tale of a person who was unable to control his depression and battle a brain injury at the same time. A fine autobiography of a true American sports star.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very interesting look at the author's life. You think you know someone from seeing him on TV and in interviews but discover that his life is totally different. An excellent look at depression and abuse and how it effects one's life and the struggle to cope with it. An eye opening story.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
the first half is good but the second half is great. That is when he tells about his depression and traumatic brain injury. If your are interested in learning more or helping people with depression or TBI this book is for you.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
John Saunders had a turbulent, abusive childhood, and grew up to suffer from severe mental health issues. He led a rough life enduring all his roller coaster emotions.
Russ Haeber
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A man of many admirable qualities. Rest In Peace.
Matthew Stetz
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Always was a big fan of John Saunders. Grew up on him. Tough life he lived. Good stories.
Linda Burns
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good book.

I always thought John was one of the best personalities on ESPN. Hard to believe how far he came in life.
Willy Steiner
I thought it was an inspiring story but was much less specific on how the mental health issues were really overcome. I guess if you have depression, you always do.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Just okay.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
An athletes story of dealing with depression and a brain injury
Marc Hilt
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Learned a lot about a man I respected as a television personality but respect even more as a man. Not a perfect man, but one who tried his best after starting life with a tough childhood.
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John Saunders was a Canadian-American sports journalist. He worked for ESPN for nearly 30 years.