“Juiced” a story in a story

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. And that’s especially true for Jose Canseco’s
“Juiced: Rapid ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. ” You can’t judge it by it’s front cover, but the back cover, which features Canseco, sans-shirt, flexing an enormous bicep, is judgment inducing.

f the back cover wasn’t enough, the first three pages tell the reader all they need to know about the author. Not only does Canseco admit he used steroids to become a better baseball player, but he also admits his two favorite actors are Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenneger.

Almost from the beginning the tone is set and the reader can’t help thinking that this is going to be one cheesy book. This is why “Juiced” is such an enjoyable read, because when the book is done it turns out to be even cheesier than expected. But at the same time it is surprisingly readable.
The fact Canseco is willing to admit his steroid use in a time when everyone and their mom (literally- see cyclist Floyd Landis) are denying steroid use is nice, nay, refreshing
to see an athlete come clean about his past.
The confession is not the tearful kind, nor the emotionless kind associated with public confessions. Canseco is proud of what he did and of his action’s results.
Steroids tend to be the 21st century equivalent to being a communist in the 1950s – everyone is guilty until proven guilty.
They are seen as dangerous drugs that will reduce your sex drive to non-existent and cast you in the country’s greatest stigma – that you are a cheater.
Somehow, whether it was Canseco’s open bragging about the results or his position that widespread steroid-use can be used for more good than bad, Canseco is able to come out of the book looking more favorable than players like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.

These latter players have never admitted use of steroids.

Sure, Canseco seemed to enjoy wearing lingerie on “The Surreal Life.” And yes, he is famous for having a ball bounce off his head for a home run (something wonderfully ripped off in “For the Love of the Game”) but Jose Canseco’s most lasting impression might be that he was the first person not only to speak out about steroid use, but to endorse it.

“Game of Shadows,” a recent book by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, goes more in depth about the use of steroids by athletes.

But for a book about steroid use in baseball – who may have used, how they did it and its results – Jose Canseco’s “Juiced,” like its author, is remarkably and yet strangely enjoyable.

Sean Price can be reached at sean.price@temple.edu

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