Twenty years ago, the high-flying sports agent Jerry Maguire stayed up all night writing a 25-page manifesto designed to tell his venal colleagues exactly what he thought of their industry.
This week, Maguire’s creator Cameron Crowe has revealed that this manifesto actually exists, by posting the whole 5,600-word tract online.
In Crowe’s Oscar-nominated film, Maguire is given the sack when he shares his “mission statement”, forcing the idealistic agent (Tom Cruise) to go it alone with his one remaining client, a volatile American footballer played by Cuba Gooding Jr.
But what was in the document that lost Jerry his job? In 1996 movie, we only see get a brief glimpse of Maguire’s screed, as he types four words: “Fewer clients. Less money.”
The full essay ("The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business") is now available on Crowe’s website, theuncool.com, and makes for gripping reading.
It’s a mixture of powerful, emotional rhetoric and incredibly bad writing, as Maguire pours out his soul: “It’s 1 AM and this might be the bad pizza I had earlier talking,” he begins, “but I believe I have something to say.”
Maguire recalls the words of his mentor, Dicky Fox (“The secret to this job is personal relationships”), and offers a word of warning to his colleagues: “We are losing our battle with all that is personal and real about our business.”
"We are agents,” Maguire continues. “To some, that brings with it the image of a Slickster. A Huckster. Someone profiting off the efforts of others. For many of those we’ve met or observed, that is what we are… We are sometimes as important as priests or poets, but until we dedicate ourselves to worthier goals than getting a illegal phone number, we are poets of emptiness… We must crack open the tightly clenched fist of commerce and give a little back for the greater good."
At 3.13am, he adds, "I have the distinct feeling that what I have written is ‘touchy feely.’ I don’t care. I have lost the ability to bulls--t."
In an interview with Industry Central, Crowe explained that the essay reflects the writer/director’s “own views on the greed situation”, but was mainly intended to “embarrass” Maguire. The idea was “that this guy would do something embarrassing, and that he would think he was a writer, the same way sometimes people think, ‘Oh, anybody can write!’ … but it ends up being more of like a diary piece than a statement – and that's what he's sent out for everybody to read!”
True to this spirit, Maguire’s screed is riddled random thoughts, cod-philosophy and mistakes. Despite stressing the "neutral" nature of his company, he’s not sure how to spell the word: "We are at a point of neutrality. We are all, right now, nuetral [sic]. Nuetral, as in not black or white. Not bad or good. Even. Nuetral… I once had a yellow couch. I got rid of it because it was nuetral. My life is now like that yellow couch."
Later, he muses, "Sports may never be the Pute [sic] and simple thing that older men pine for."
Cruise bagged a Best Actor nomination at the 1997 Oscars for his performance as Maguire, and this essay would certainly have helped to develop his character’s back-story. We learn that Maguire is racked with guilt about the death of a girl he once knew, and that his "brother works for Nasa, helping grow blue-green algae that will one day feed the world… He sleeps well at night."
Crowe even includes a little colourful detail about Maguire’s company: "Random Fact #128: Sports Management International [was] founded in 1981... The original client roster existed of four athletes, one of them was the first American Frisbee Champion, Chester Savage, who was actually born in Australia."
This bodes well for the future. In four years time, Crowe's rock-n-roll caper Almost Famous will also be celebrating its 20th anniversary. Come 2020, Crowe might unveil the gonzo feature the film's 15-year-old protagonist wrote for Rolling Stone magazine, which memorably began: "I am flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi, with America's hottest band – and we are all about to die."
The Things We Think and Do Not Say is available to read at theuncool.com