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Barney Polan's Game (Harvest Book)

Charley Rosen

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ISBN 10: 015600688X / ISBN 13: 9780156006880
Published by Harvest Books, 1999
Condition: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Barney Polan's Game (Harvest Book)

Publisher: Harvest Books

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: Good

About this title


Like the 1919 Black Sox scandal in baseball, the college basketball point-shaving scandal of 1951 represented a fall from grace. Players, coaches, bookies, and gangsters conspired to fix the outcomes of games, and their exposure showed that basketball was irrevocably corrupted by power and big money. Charley Rosen, whose acclaimed previous novel, The House of Moses All-Stars, confirmed him as "bard of the backboard" (Toronto Star), has written an astonishing and poignant tale about the events that still cast a shadow over basketball. Told from the points of view of the different protagonists-Jewish, Catholic, and black players, the gangsters themselves, the bystanders-the game's descent into corruption and chaos is penetratingly described. Set against the background of the Korean War, McCarthyism, and racial tension, Barney Polan's Game is a masterful morality tale, a tragedy filled with thrilling moments of sport and stunning moments of personal failure. It is a story no one will forget.


The United States love sports. The heroes of diamond, court, and gridiron are worshiped like gods, and when they fall, the impact can crack the foundations of American culture. In 1951, college basketball was rocked by scandal; players, coaches, gamblers, and mobsters had conspired to fix games on a massive scale, bringing the sport to the brink of collapse.

Charley Rosen--the author of Scandals of '51, the classic nonfiction account of these events--has written a novel that attempts to dig beneath the headlines and explore the deeper implications for both individuals and the nation. The central character is sportswriter Barney Polan, a would-be Faulkner who finds poetry in college basketball. Polan is a hero in the Willy Loman mold, feeling adrift in a world where the old certainties are disappearing and the nobility of the sport he loves is being swallowed up by greed. His crumbling idealism in the face of scandal and corruption mirrors the broader themes woven through the novel.

Rosen allows other characters to take center stage in first-person-narrated chapters that present events from a myriad of perspectives, including those of the players and Johnny Boy Gianelli, the gangster who set the wheels of corruption in motion. This brings a documentary weight to a work that is balanced by rapid-fire, expertly paced writing, particularly in the basketball scenes, making Barney Polan's Game much more than a retelling. Rosen takes one of the great myth-making factories of American culture and uses it to reflect on the enormous changes that swept the country at the beginning of the 1950s--a time when racism and political paranoia began to bubble up though America's postwar optimism. In the clumsy conspiracy of petty gangsters and fresh-faced college boys, Rosen finds a microcosm of the rapidly souring American dream.

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