Mike Greenberg explores his sensitive side with ''All You Could Ask For,'' about three women battling breast cancer.
Don’t let the Emily Giffin-esque title and cover fool you. All You Could Ask For, a novel that fits squarely into the ”women’s fiction” genre, was written by a famously manly man: ESPN SportsCenter anchor Mike Greenberg, known as Greeny to fans of his ESPN Radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning. But Greenberg, 45, doesn’t consider himself more touchy-feely than the average guy. ”After my family,” he says, ”my single biggest priority is my fandom of the New York Jets.”
Although a male sportscaster writing chick lit is a funny concept (Greenberg’s previous book was the 2006 best-seller Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot), the inspiration for All You Could Ask For is entirely earnest. In February 2009, Greenberg’s close friend Heidi Armitage was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Greenberg’s wife, Stacy, and other Westport, Conn.-based friends, including the novelist Jane Green, formed a group called Heidi’s Angels, which supported Armitage until her death in September of that year. Inspired by the women’s devotion to one another, Greenberg decided one night to write a novel ”about assessing your feelings about your own mortality, and the power of friendship to allow people to rise above times of adversity,” he says.
Greenberg gave himself the intimidating task of writing from the perspective of three different women: Brooke, a happily married wife and mom; Samantha, the young wife of a philandering politician; and Katherine, a successful but lonely business executive. Each woman gets a shocking diagnosis of breast cancer, and they forge a tight bond via an online support group.
To get the female voices right, Greenberg enlisted his wife, his agent’s wife, and his yoga teacher to serve as an ad hoc focus group. They scanned Greenberg’s manuscript line by line for anything that rang false. ”No 28-year-old woman would ever use the word blouse,” he was told. And a woman wouldn’t refer to her own rear end as her bottom: ”It’s gotta be ass.”
In addition to reading books by Giffin, Green, Jennifer Weiner, and Helen Fielding, Greenberg made a conscious effort to think more like a woman. ”This is a gross generalization, but I think women pay more attention to details — of their relationships, emotions, and things in the room in which they’re sitting,” he says. ”Women are constantly wondering what men are thinking, when the answer is that we’re not thinking at all.” There’s one subject Greenberg wouldn’t touch: ”I couldn’t write about the experience of having sex from a woman’s perspective,” he says. ”No one wants to read my opinion on that.”
Greenberg’s foray into women’s fiction isn’t a stunt. His earnings will go to the V Foundation, which funds cancer research. ”I’m trying to rationalize this incredibly unjust thing that happened to my friend,” he says. ”Maybe just to make myself feel better, we’re going to do something really good.”