Steroids good. Nature bad.
That isn't the only message in Jose Canseco's book, "Juiced: The Most Convoluted and Overwritten Subtitle in History," but it's the one most often repeated. Responsible steroid use "is an opportunity, not a danger," according to Dr. Canseco.
Some of the other things you learn about Jose: He was never wrong, even when he was arrested; he was always misunderstood, even when he was attempting to cultivate an air of mystery; he was only kinda sorta involved with Madonna, and he'll tell you it was nobody's business over and over and over and over.
We can handle that from Jose Canseco. We've heard it all before, from other allegedly misunderstood and mistreated athletes. The I'm-the-only-one-who-gets-it plotline was worn thin long ago. And Canseco's worldview is of absolutely no interest to anybody. In other words, shut up and show us the 'roids.
He does, of course, in a bizarre manner. This is not a cautionary tale, or a 12-stepper trying to make amends. This is the Jonas Salk of steroids, a guy who seems to truly believe he is the world's foremost expert on the regulation of steroids and human growth hormone. And oh by the way, on page 98 he writes, "But one definite side effect of steroid use is the atrophying of the testicles." It's about the only discouraging word.
It has become too trendy to say just because the messenger is unreliable doesn't mean the messenger is always incorrect. That's true, of course; but Canseco's special brand of unreliability raises questions about nearly everything he has to say. I think he's probably more right than wrong on the major issues, but the details tend to get in the big fella's way.
For one thing, he's got it bad for Mark McGwire, and it goes beyond ratting the guy out. He says McGwire got special treatment from the media because he was the white All-American boy, and there's some truth to that. He says the shield provided McGwire with protection against rumors, protection Canseco wasn't given.
But then Jose says the 1998 andro episode -- when a bottle of a legal steroid precursor was found in his locker by an Associated Press reporter -- was orchestrated by McGwire to take the attention away from his heavy use of illegal steroids. But why, with the media shield in place, would McGwire raise suspicions by exposing himself to that kind of scrutiny? It's the kind of contradiction that gives those targeted by Canseco -- even those as guilty as he says they are -- an outlet to refute him.
Some of the contradictions are entertaining. On page 83, he writes, "Some baseball players were into piling up a lot of diamonds and jewelry and expensive clothing and shoes ... But cars and women were really enough for me." Then, on page 103, he's sitting with Madonna and she asks him about his 6-carat diamond ring. "I just like jewelry," he tells her.
Nothing, though, compares with the back of the dust jacket. There he is, shirtless and flexing, a cartoon character out to save the world from the ravages of natural living. It's a format resembling a baseball card, and to the right of his head and just below "33 CANSECO" it reads, "The Chemist." You've got to laugh. It's the kind of stuff you can't make up.
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