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God Save the Fan: How Steroid Hypocrites, Soul-Sucking Suits, and a Worldwide Leader Not Named Bush Have Taken The Fun Out of Sports

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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Arch and unrepentant, Will Leitch, founding editor of Deadspin.com, is the mouthpiece for all the frustrated fans who just want their games back from big money, bloated egos, and blathering sportscasters. Always a fan first and a sportswriter second, Leitch considers the perfection of fantasy leagues and the meaninglessness of the steroids debate as he exposes Olympic fetishes, parses Shaq's rap attack on Kobe, shares a brew with John Rocker and his surprising girlfriend, and reveals what ESPN and the beer companies really think about you. If you or a fan you love is suffering from a sense of listless dissatisfaction brought on by the leagues and networks, God Save the Fan is your new manifesto.

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God Save the Fan
How Steroid Hypocrites, Soul-Sucking Suits, and a Worldwide Leader Not Named Bush Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports

Chapter One

Please, God, No, Not Another Essay About Steroids

Let's just say, hypothetically speaking, that you are not an accountant, a systems analyst, or one who lays pipe for a living in a nonsexual way. Let's say, instead of whatever it is that you do, you are an inventor—a chemist, even.

Let's say that during your rigorous studies in the field of chemistry (with a little biology thrown in, you know, for the ladies), you come across an amazing compound. This compound, accidentally discovered while searching for an even more effective way to give your grandfather an erection, has regenerative powers beyond the realm of human comprehension. When you test this compound on lab rats, they not only recover from strenuous activity quicker—whatever strenuous activity lab rats might need to recover from—they actually grow muscle mass without any physical activity at all. That is to say this compound makes the rats stronger, faster, and smarter . . . it turns them into superrats.

You are amazed by this discovery but are concerned about the rats. Would they become overly aggressive? Would they suffer from reduced genital size—a serious problem, though, hey, it happens to lots of rats!—or perhaps some sort of heart ailment? You run them through every test you can find, and nothing appears to be wrong with them. All the compound did was turn them into muscle-bound, physically and mentally superior rats, with no side effects whatsoever. Full of fevered dreams of a Nobel Prize (and all the cascading fountains of poon that come with it), you decide not to worry about a test group of human subjects; you skip that step and just distill it into liquid form—you call it, oh, Jesus Juice or something—and drink it down yourself.

You notice the effect within seconds. You are instantly bench-pressing twice your body weight, running a mile in six minutes, and able to solve sudoku puzzles in a matter of seconds. You're perhaps most dumbfounded by your hand-eye coordination; when you accidentally knock over a bottle of your magic beverage, you are stunned that you instinctively grab it before it hits the floor. After about six hours, the effects wear off, so you drink some more, and it all comes back. You immediately submit the juice to the Food and Drug Administration, and after years of testing, they officially announce that the juice (since dubbed "Jack Sauce," after your four-year-old son who can now juggle cars) has nothing but positive effects on human beings. No long-term negative effects, no added stress on the body, no problems whatsoever. It's all good. Nothing is wrong with Jack Sauce at all.

A statue of you is erected in your hometown, and you spend the rest of your life wearing suits of thousand-dollar bills and having a series of initially thrilling threesomes that provide diminishing returns but are still worth the trouble. You sail into your golden years as the most beloved and famous human being on the planet. Congratulations!

Okay. Now, legitimate question: If this Jack Sauce existed, and it truly had no side effects and only brought joy and health to humans, would it be okay for athletes to use it before games? Could they drink down a good batch before taking the field? If they were feeling worn down in the seventh inning, could they do a few shots between innings?

Or would that be cheating? Immoral?

How you feel about that question can be instructive to consider when weighing in on the issue of steroids. For all the column inches and broadcast minutes devoted to the concept, it's difficult to find a single side to the "debate" that makes much sense. And it's something we better figure out pretty soon, because if you think performance enhancers are bad now, just wait. Science is a crazy thing; Jack Sauce will be here before you know it.

Heading into the 2006 National League Championship Series, the St. Louis Cardinals were extremely concerned about third baseman Scott Rolen. Rolen had struggled with injuries throughout his career, but by Game 3 of the NLCS he was as banged up as he had ever been. His shoulder hurt, his knee hurt, he even had a sticky film on him that just wouldn't rinse away. He was an absolute mess, but his shoulder was the biggest sore spot; he couldn't generate any bat speed and was slumping when the Cardinals needed him most.

Rolen—a tough midwestern guy whose face looks like he's more suited for riding a combine and complaining about how the Dixie Chicks are gettin' too goddamned liberal—had been feuding with manager Tony LaRussa about the extent of his injury. In a last-ditch effort to bump Rolen up somewhere near 100 percent, LaRussa went to Cardinals trainer Barry Weinberg (See? There are Jews in sports! They're the trainers!) and requested a cortisone shot. The cortisone shot is a staple in sports, used to provide temporary relief for lingering pain in trouble spots.

The cortisone shot is also a—gasp!—steroid. Cortisone is produced naturally by the body, released automatically when a person is under stress. Injectable cortisone is produced in a lab but is rather close to what the body produces on its own. It is, by definition, a performance enhancer, and it's even an injection. If something hurts, you can inject it with cortisone, and the pain will go away. It is a far more effective and immediate performance enhancer than human growth hormone or Decadrol or whatever else players are always trying to sneak past the censors (that is, if said censors happen to exist).

The thing about cortisone is that it has no side effects. It doesn't do anything but make a person feel better.

So, Rolen took his shot and, lo and behold, within a matter of hours he started hitting the ball again. His reinvigorated bat, along with the Bugs Bunny curveball of closer Adam Wainwright and the power that Jeff Suppan derived from his hatred of stem cells, led the Cardinals to a series victory and, ultimately, a World Series title. (Woo!) Suddenly, Rolen and Tony LaRussa weren't fighting anymore, and no one remembered his earlier slump. He was a hero.

God Save the Fan
How Steroid Hypocrites, Soul-Sucking Suits, and a Worldwide Leader Not Named Bush Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports
. Copyright © by Will Leitch. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from God Save the Fan: How Steroid Hypocrites, Soul-Sucking Suits, and a Worldwide Leader Not Named Bush Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports by Will Leitch
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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