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The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence Paperback – June, 1994

13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Nordic Knight Pr (June 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963846191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963846198
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Rowing is among the most anonymous of sports. In the prestige categories there are legends and myths, but these are little known or acclaimed outside its community.. It retains its Brahmin character; despite becoming more accessible in recent years, it still has the aura of Groton, Exeter, St. Paul's preps and the Ivy League. The first Yale - Harvard contest was held in 1852, predating any other intercollegiate athletics. Kiesling takes you into the world of the 8's, in futile preparation for the boycotted 1980 Olympics. A house scholar and varsity member at Yale, Kiesling gives you a grasp of the cult like devotion to this sport, the fraternal but bitterly competitive atmosphere for places on the boat, the almost complete physical immersion, beyond exhaustion, in preparation for regattas-- and the little acre of hell and glory (or agony) of the races themselves. This type of athletic intensity is, if not unique, uniquely exhibited in Crew-- members strive to exceed their limits, to match and challenge that of their crew mates, to uphold its traditions. This is a young man's book; his sharp opinions reflect a young man's attitudes born of singular personal challenges-- which moderate with maturity. It is a good book on rowing, and a great book on the competitive spirit.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
I reccomend this book for anyone who has ever rowed, or has ever wondered what it would be like to row. He makes the reader feel the drastic ups and downs which go along with this addicting sport. I received my copy as a gift from another rower, and I have continually passed my copy on to my teammates and coaches. A must-have for any oarsman.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robin Wolfson VINE VOICE on February 10, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Shell Game" is a nice companion to "Mind Over Water" and "The Amateurs." Where "Mind Over Water" deals with single sculling, "The Shell Game" recounts Stephen Kiesling's personal history of rowing in eights, focusing especially on the Yale-Harvard race, the Henley Royal Regatta, and the preparations and selection camp for the national team for the ill-fated 1980 Olympic Games. Along with "The Amateurs," "The Shell Game" and "Mind Over Water" seem to make up a perfect trio of personal odysseys in the sport of rowing. Of the three, "The Amateurs" is certainly the best written (after all, David Halberstam, need one say more?), but "The Shell Game" and "Mind Over Water" let you peek directly into the minds and hearts of devotees of this weirdly fanatical sport.

Focused on three specific events as it is, "The Shell Game" provides a look into a rarefied world of rowing races, from the hidebound tradition of Henley to the grueling trials at the U.S. Olympic selection camp, from the etiquette of international racing to the mechanics of testing athletes to determine not only their racing abilities but even their rate of oxygen exchange.

As with any memoir, there are those who will find the more personal passages a tad cloying, but overall it's a delightful book. Kiesling provides a particularly nice chapter ("The Set") on the tragic dichotomy of the physical and the intellectual that began in ancient Greece and still haunts us today. If ever there were an argument for their reunification, this would surely be one of the best. Definitely a keeper for future re-reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andrew_Fineberg@liz.com on August 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
Having tested my own limits several years ago as a rower, and now as a triathlete, this book has become a staple food for my mind, when my body wants to quit. When the going gets rough, I get reading The Shell Game. It is both emotionally charging and intellectually provoking. While rowing is traditionally considered a collegiate sport, this book touches on both the regal culture behind the Harvard/Yale rivalry, and the primal challenge felt by every athlete that has ever been on a competitve team.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By brad@phonemiser.com on February 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
Kiesling describes his first days of rowing nearly exactly as every collegiate rower experienced them. He then guides the reader through success and failure while rowing at one of the greatest rowing powerhouses of all time, Yale.
The feelings of animosity in a low-profile sport were clear yet the pride in being part of such a great sport was more than evident.
This is a great place to start for every young rower or someone just curious about the world of rowing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
A friend told me about this book. I wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out to be a great story, and I found that I couldn't put it down once I started reading it! It reads really well, like a good story should, but it also inspires. Yeah, sure, I row, but even if I didn't I am quite sure that this story would captivate me. Kiesling tells his story well, and explains in a way that makes occasional technical references interesting to non-rowers and rowers alike. It's like an old friend is telling you a story. You won't be disappointed. You'll surely be uplifted, too.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
Perfect for any rower or novice. Kiesling can introduce anyone to the sport through the tales of his expeirence at Yale, the US National team, and the Olympics. I love digging through this book before a race to inspire me through my match. Can't wait to read it again.
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