I purchased the new book "Game of Shadows" on Monday evening after spotting it in my face at a local bookstore on Chestnut Street in San Francisco's Marina District. Even though I wrote negative press about the intentions of the San Francisco Chronicle and it's two writers work based on the excerpt I read in that newspaper, I always planned to buy and read the book.
I'm on Chapter 12 now.
I'm reading the book from four different perspectives: entertainment value, research quality and presentation, persuasiveness, and "agenda" -- in other words, does it seems that the writers have a bone to pick with Bonds, as opposed to really getting at the story behind the story and the "truth."
Well, here's my scores in each category and I doubt I'll find any part of the book to make me alter them significantly:
Entertainment Value - A
Research Quality and Presentation - D
Persuaveness - D
Agenda - F
The book scrores high because it's an interesting gossipy look at Bonds, baseball and the players involved in the steriods Story, especiallly the "BALCO" matter, which received a lot of local press, most of it from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Lance Williams and Mark Fairnaru-Wada do a good job of mixing some facts with heresay and where they use the latter it's in a sentence or paragraph where someone's colorful language is being presented. I came away with a feeling for the players in the story, even if the book seems to jump from one episode to the other.
Because all of this has been in the San Francisco Chronicle, the book feels like it's more a combination of many articles written over the last two years. (Keep that sentence in your head.) Thus, it's a book that compells Bay Area sports fans to read it, if only to fill in the blanks created by those Chronicle works one may have missed reading.
Research Quality and Presentation
This is where the "D" grade fits. The book is terribly researched and presented. If Mark and Lance are going to make these powerful accusations regarding Bonds steriod use, they should have known to carefully footnote each and every statement and sentence reporting what someone did or said. But they don't do this. Selected words are highlighted and for them a sentence on a newspaper article or "unidentified scource" is written next to it.
But if that citation is anything, it's not a real citation; it never lists the author or volume and page of the newspaper article or magazine work or book. Plus, many of the source notes do read "SFC" which is "San Francisco Chronicle" and if it's Mark and Lance's own work, it violates a basic research rule that you don't site your own work repeatedly, but see what others have written on that matter.
The point of a good, well researched book is that I should be able to take it and replicate what the writers have done. I can't do that with Mark and Lance's book. Given the gravity of their accusations, I should be able to do that.
Moreover, it's -- as I wrote -- selective in what is sourced. For example, the authors report in Chapter 11 that the Giants Slugger gave his girlfriend Kim Bell $1,000 to get back to California after the September 11th 2001 attacks. But a look in the notes for that chapter can't reveal the source of that information. It's not there. I don't want to infer, and a good research book should not force the reader to do so. There are many examples of unsourced information like that one in this book, and collectively the poor presentation makes me very angry because it negatively impacts...
Here's a D grade, and it's not an "F" grade because some of their points are generally known, but where you're looking for smoking gun information, it's not there at all. Empty. The writers make blanket statements regarding how Bonds may have -- for example -- talked to Jason Giambi, but provide zero evidence to back up their claims. This is a constant pattern in the book and makes for a sloppy argument at best.
Here's another example that really ticked me off:the writers report that Bonds was using a kind of performance enhancing drug, which they write is not a steroid, but then include a "guessing" line that it could become a steroid if it were mixed with two other drugs -- but they don't prove Bonds did this. They play close to the edge, too close.
It's for this reason in part that I think the authors had an agenda, and why they scored an "F" in that area. There's no balanced presentation here.
A big fat "F."
In the over 100 pages of text I've read thus far, there's not one positive paragraph about Barry Bonds the person. The lone supportive paragraph reports Bonds well-known home run stats, but that's it.
The rest is a collection of surmised words on Bonds' relationship with his father (terrible and combative) and choice sentences on Bonds marriage to Sun Bonds. But in both we're treated to the worst comments Bonds may have made, but then left wondering why the court judgement came out in Barry's favor and why in his final days with his father they seemed so chumy.
Look, just because Barry may have been unavailable to you, the journalist, don't mean you have to attempt to match or surpass his treatment of you. One thing this episode has shown is just how few Christians are in America's sports newsrooms.
ESPN Gets It Wrong Again
ESPN reports that the evidence proving Bonds' use of steroids is "powerful." I assert that anyone who makes that claim flunked English and basic research -- which is probably true. There's no "powerful evidence" here; only several attempts to string "possible events" together. That's a joke; the man's innocent until proven guilty and this does not do it. If I were Barry, I'd fire my current legal counsel, and hire Johnny Cochran's law firm. Why" Because the mix of racist commentary and misinformation adds up to libel, and I believe that in this specific case African American legal counsel will see the serious racism that comes through in this book, and shed more light on it than I have.
The other thing that's sick about "The Worldwide Leader" is their constant attempts to move Major League Baseball to investigate the matter of steroid use by Barry Bonds by false reporting. That's right: false reporting. First, they blabbed that the Commissioner of Baseball was going to take action, when Bud Selig never said anything to cause anyone to even remotely come to that conclusion.
Now, ESPN reports that Major League Baseball's going to establish a commission to investigate the use of steroids, when there's no statement from baseball either in a press release or at its website. ESPN claims this annoucement will come tommorrow and from baseball.
This is the worst abuse of the media airwaves. ESPN should be fined by the FCC and for $10 million. This, I'd push for. The FCC needs to get involved and set some standards for reporting here.
I'm very confident the Chronicle could be beaten in court. The rag's very lucky Barry's got a lawyer who's more interested in getting his name on radio and TV than in winning court cases for his client. `