Published on April 24th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Michael McCormack On His New Memoir “Born Fanatic: My Life In The Grip Of The NFL” & More
The son of a world champion Cleveland Brown and an NFL Hall Of Famer of the same name, Michael McCormack is a lifetime football fan. But McCormack’s feelings about the NFL are not entirely in line with his football fandom. Such is detailed in McCormack’s soon-to-be-released memoir titled Born Fanatic: My Life In The Grip Of The NFL, as available through The Seattle Book Company.
On behalf of The Hype Magazine, I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with McCormack, now a Washington State-based lawyer, writer, and speaker. More on his memoir — as called “a powerful inkblot of a book” by Dr. Ralph Kilmann — and the author can be found online at www.bornfanatic.com.
What came first: your book concept or its title?
Michael McCormack: The concept came first, for sure. Early versions, and there were many, felt like verbal vomiting. The working title in those days was Concussion Of A Different Kind. About a year ago, almost by accident, I discovered the wealth of research on sports fanaticism. Who knew there was so much!? That research gave me some structure to the writing, and more important, clarity to my personal experience. Typically, fanatics are built, not born. But not this one.
How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read the blurbs or back cover yet?
Michael McCormack: My memoir is about the 50-year triangle between me, my father and pro football; the good, bad and ugly of my fanatic ride within that triangle. What I lost, what I almost lost but redeemed, and what I will fight to preserve based on what I learned.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Michael McCormack: More than four years.
Was there a part of the book that was most difficult to write?
Michael McCormack: Some parts were definitely harder to write than others, e.g. the childhood violence, my poor choices as a fanatic, and my chaotic attempts to break away. But clearly, the most difficult part was the last 30 pages titled “Dismantling the Fanatic,” which was a real-time untangling of my relationship with my father and football after he died. Strangely, it was also the most satisfying part to write, once it was done.
The NFL faced a backlash this year for a variety of reasons, which one may assume has led to its declining ratings. Does any of that affect your love of the game?
Michael McCormack: The NFL’s past year represented an intense microcosm of my life-long roller coaster with pro football. Indeed, it’s always been a roller coaster. A couple years ago, before the [Colin] Kaepernick story unfolded, I walked away cold-turkey for a season. I was miserable, which surprised me. As I wrote in the book, I left behind something I didn’t intend. Now, my love for football as the greatest team sport is as strong as ever. My love for the NFL? Not so much. For as I also wrote, football is bigger than the NFL.
Is there something you wish more people knew about the NFL?
Michael McCormack: Absolutely! Pro football’s fanatics are the engine that drives the League. It’s not the owners, players or the media. If we believe the game is worth saving, fans will have to do it. And not by walking away.
Aside from promoting this book, what’s coming up for you career-wise?
Michael McCormack: I haven’t quit my day job as a lawyer. Meanwhile, in addition to writing, I’ve been laying the groundwork for a late-stage career in organizational design, sprung from my interest in and discoveries about teamwork.
“Fanatic” is often used in a pejorative way, but NFL aside, is there anything else you’re a fanatic of? How do you like to spend your free time?
Michael McCormack: With five kids, I used to spend my free time parenting and helping with the kids’ youth sports. Now on the cusp of an empty nest, my wife Melissa and I are building a cabin in the nearby rainforest and getting to know the wild life.
Finally, Michael, any last words for the kids?
Michael McCormack: You are part of a team. You may not understand what that means yet, and you may not know what team you’re on. But it’s true. And though it’s hard work being part of a team, there’s no better experience than becoming an important part of something greater. And you will become an important part if you give yourself as many chances as you need to discover that.