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Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  4,342 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 23rd 2006 by Gotham (first published 2006)
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Jan 08, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it
It's an impressive piece of journalism from the journalists who got those notorious San Francisco Chronicle scoops during the Balco scandal, but, like many contemporary sports books, it doesn't say much for the integrity of professional sports in the US or abroad. The book works well in its meticulous research and detail about who was cheating and how. Reading this is certainly not going to renew one's faith in humanity although it does provide some effective moments of schadenfreude watching ev ...more
Shawn  Stone
Jan 11, 2015 Shawn Stone rated it it was amazing
“With few exceptions, the more than three dozen athletes who
appeared before the grand jury admitted taking steroids ... all to
run faster, jump higher, hit the ball farther, and, ultimately, make
more money. Some of the confessions were grudging and evasive. Others were extremely forthcoming. It came down to the same thing: Competitive sports, it turned out, was part mirage, a game of shadows. “
- Game of Shadows

In this engaging book, Fainaru-Wada and Williams pull back the curtain on America’s na
Sep 23, 2013 Dave rated it it was ok
As far as the investigation goes the authors did a solid job, but there is a lot of exaggeration and a number of baseless assertions and counterfactual claims that harm the book. The authors repeatedly claim Bonds was the best hitter ever. By any objective statistical analysis this is not true. The authors claim synthol is a drug that expands the muscle. It is neither a drug nor does it expand the muscle. It's an injectable oil that sits on top of the muscle. Think saline implants. Look up Gregg ...more
Feb 09, 2013 Chip'sBookBinge rated it it was amazing
Game Of Shadows is about BALCO and the impact that it had on the sporting world at large from Baseball (Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Benito Santiago, etc...) to Track and Field (Marion Jones) to Football (Bill Romanowski). But the main crux of this book focused squarely on Barry Bonds, detailing his steroid use starting in 1999.

If Hollywood ever decides to make a movie about BALCO, this is the book they will no doubt use as it's blue print. I for one would love to see it happen bec
Apr 08, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible book...not just because of the story, but, for me, because of the incredible in-depth reporting done by the two authors. This is journalism at its best!

I have been aware of this book for sometime, but at the recent Tucson Festival of Books, both authors were there and gave a riveting account of this on-going story. So many similarities to Watergate and Woodward and Bernstein. I sat in utter fascination for an hour as they told how the story unfolded.

Even more interesting,
Mar 12, 2010 Brugge rated it liked it
A fantastic job of investigative reporting and writing. A enjoyable read full of juicy tid-bits, but you just end up feeling bad about the state of baseball and the state of PED in all sports. The real question is who is to blame? I feel like it is an easy answer to just say, “the person taking the PED is to blame” Of course they bear a large part of the responsibility but I don’t think it is that simple. There are so many variable in play; owners want production, they want fans in the seats, th ...more
Jan 26, 2008 Brad rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, to-sell
A realistic portrayal of what the sport of baseball, and the overall elite sporting world has become. If you want to keep thinking all is well, and that steroids are a minor part of sports than I would not suggest reading this book. Fainaru-Wada and Williams' research is remarkable, and at sometimes, technically illegal. But they do whatever it takes to get the story, and this was a groundbreaking piece of work. After reading this book, any baseball fan would come to the logical conclusion that ...more
Mitchell Sanford
Jan 13, 2015 Mitchell Sanford rated it liked it
When I began reading this book knew it would reference Barry Bonds and his steroid abuse. I was not expecting all of the other interesting information about BALCO and the Barry Bonds trial. In the book, Game of Shadows , by Mark Fainaru-Wada, it goes in depth into the BALCO scandal and how it affected not only Barry Bonds but the world of sports as a whole. It begins by talking about Barry Bonds. It begins the story at a very logical point, before the scandal. The San Francisco Giants were in Sa ...more
Romela Encina
Mar 07, 2014 Romela Encina rated it it was amazing
In a world where winning is actually everything, professional athletes are put in a tough position in determining how far they are willing to push the boundaries in order to achieve the prize. Organized sports, such as the MLB (Major League Baseball) and NHL (National Hockey League) may seem like it’s just for fun because it involves grown adults playing children’s games, but in reality it’s more of a business. When you put an innocent child’s game into the bright spotlights of national entertai ...more
Nov 30, 2011 Zack rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, non-fiction
I picked up this book thinking it would be more about baseball and sports in general, but it turned out to be focusing on steroids involved with BALCO, not just baseball. It covered many athletes in several sporting events, focusing on many Olympic runners. I found it hard to finish this book, but glad that I did. It was very dry at times and took time to read. If you are into steroids, this is the inside scoop for you.
Jul 04, 2016 Franky rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball, scandals
“Now, something new unsettling seemed to be going on with baseball—or with the men who played it.”

There are enough dubious and shady characters in Game of Shadows to fill an old Western or vaudeville melodrama. These aren't fictional characters, though.

The explosion of the “steroid era” in baseball came into prime focus soon after the homerun explosions in the late 90s, culminating in the epic Mark McGwire—Sammy Sosa 1998 homerun race and then finally Barry Bonds’ chase for history soon after.
Kevin Kirkhoff
Nov 20, 2013 Kevin Kirkhoff rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, library
Just like Fainaru-Wada’s other book League of Denial, this was a very interesting and entertaining read. Although it seemed that most of the book dealt with the BALCO and track and field side as opposed to the baseball (Bonds) side, they did a great job of tying everyone together. But I was a bit surprised at the number of typos and grammatical errors.

It did bother me though when they got to the investigative section of the book (Part II). I’m of the opinion that it’s none of our business what p
Mark Hatcher
Apr 05, 2010 Mark Hatcher rated it liked it
This was very good read and a lot of good material. My challenge in reading this book was that the author seemed to have it in for Bonds exclusively. His chapters and references regarding Bonds are filled with speculation and conjecture. Also, the writer only loosely mentions that performance enhancing drugs were NOT illegal when Bonds-if it's true, Giambi, Sheffield and others were juicing.

I also found it interesting (and hypocritical) that at the end of the book the authors seem to be asking
William Johnson
The year 2010 is a year where we are starting to see our sports stars as scoundrels. Sure, we always SUSPECTED a lot of them were selfish babies (the baseball strike in 1994, the NBA lockout in 99, the constant threats from the NFL of a future lockout in 2011, etc etc etc) but when an athlete came out as a verified scumbag, it was kind of like an exception to the norm. We still worshipped the people that probably could give a damn about us. I suffer from it still. . .but as 2010 skips past it's ...more
Brian Eshleman
Aug 28, 2013 Brian Eshleman rated it liked it
This book did not much scratch my baseball itch. It talked as much about chemistry and about track as it did about baseball. What the book did accomplish is to move my general dislike of Barry Bonds into absolute disgust. His decision to "juice" did not so moved me. I can understand that he had a lot of athletes who wanted to be the best baseball player possible used a chemical advantage to do so under the pressure that they did not want to fall behind. But reading about the way Bonds treated th ...more
Jason Collins
Mar 30, 2012 Jason Collins rated it it was amazing
The tale of the Victor Conte/BALCO scandal is fascinating, and the story behind athletes who may have used steroids during an era when steroid use was rampant is pretty interesting too.

"Game of Shadows" details Conte's rise & fall, along with a good amount of recent history surrounding the steroids-sports partnership. When I closed this book, I didn't find myself detesting Victor Conte or Barry Bonds. They came across as tragic figures that might actually deserve a little sympathy. Instead,
Jul 08, 2008 corey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read, but too many facts get in the way of what should be a remarkable novel: its protagonist is the world's greatest athlete, but no one gives him the respect he so-rightly commands! He hits home runs, people. SO many home runs... Your eyes might just bug out of your head if you knew how many bombs he hit. Despite all these jacks, the so-called "reporters" in the story can dig up only a few years' worth of damning evidence. Think about it: on one hand, you've got a number of files and do ...more
Nov 17, 2008 John rated it liked it
Meh. I give it about a C. Books written by journalists -- specifically, newspaper reporters -- tend to be a little dry in style but make up for it with details. This book chronicles the rise and fall of BALCO, a supplement "facility" in San Francisco linked to the creation and distribution of designer steroids, with a client list reading like a who's who of elite athletes in track and field, professional baseball, the NFL and Olympians.

Some of the details/back stories were interesting, but by t
Jaymz H.
Oct 31, 2013 Jaymz H. rated it liked it
The game of baseball was forever changed when the all-star, Barry Bonds was caught using steroids and growth hormones supplied by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, or BALCO, nutrition center. This story was fully explained in the Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams.

The Game of Shadows is very similar to Love me, Hate Me by Jeff Pearlman because they both are about how Barry Bonds converted himself from a baseball hero, to a baseball anti-hero. Bonds was drafted by the Pit
Dec 15, 2013 Svball rated it really liked it
Barry Bonds used to be one of the most iconic baseball players the MLB had ever seen, by hitting monstrous homeruns into McCovey Cove while also being the son of hall of famer Willie Mays. But than when Bonds was later found out to be linked to BALCO and abusing steroids his life took a turn for the worst. This book gives you an elaborate description of how Bonds' steroid abuse caused his life to spiral downwards, from his days in Pittsburgh till he retired. Many of the people that knew of the s ...more
Jun 02, 2008 Brett rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bud Selig
There is no way anyone could read this book, see the amount of hard evidence documented within, and still conculde anything other than Barry Bonds knowingly took performance enhancing drugs.

The Federal agents have:
1) Calenders denoting which drugs he took on which days used by the BALCO lab to control his drug cycles and maximize the drugs effectiveness.
2) A wire recording from an undercover agent that recorded Barry's personal trainer saying what drugs Barry was taking.
3) Results of failed dru
Jun 08, 2011 Kurt rated it really liked it
When GAME OF SHADOWS arrived on the scene, the clamor was to know about Barry Bonds and what, if any, illegal drugs he took to fuel his pursuit of Major League Baseball’s all time home run record. To a lesser degree people wanted to know why. Those questions are answered painstakingly throughout the book. In fact, the presentation of Barry Bonds in this book is so brutal, like a villain from a penny dreadful novel, that if it wasn’t true he would have sued. Truth be told, I have been a Bonds hat ...more
I'll be honest: I knew almost nothing about the BALCO scandal before I read this book. Sure, I knew that congress had some hearings about steroids, and that it turned out some of the dudes hitting home runs in the 1990s were juicers, but that's about as far as my knowledge (or frankly, interest) went. But Scott Brick is my favorite audio book narrator, so when I saw his name on the cover of this audio book, I had to check it out. And man, I'm glad I did.

Game of Shadows tells the story of the ris
Sarah Sammis
Jun 21, 2007 Sarah Sammis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released
The BALCO steroid raid was a local headline news "event" for a number of months. I have to admit that I tuned most of it out. Around the same time as the trial I read and enjoyed The Secret Language of Baseball which among its analysis of hand signals had some chapters on previous baseball scandals. So when Game of Shadows was offered up at the local BookCrossing meeting last year, I had to give it a read.

Baseball while an entertaining sport to play and to watch is not all "Mom and apple pie" p
Chris Munson
Aug 15, 2012 Chris Munson rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
I decided to read Game of Shadows given the upcoming Barry Bonds trial. I have come to a few conclusions: 1. Barry Bonds is an A-hole. 2. Bill Romanowski is an A-hole. They were this way before their sojourn into the seedy world of performance enhancing drugs and they will still be that way until their pre-mature deaths. I think the real conclusion that you come away with after reading this book is that the intense pressure in athletics will cause even moral athletes to ‘explore their options.’ ...more
Oct 04, 2013 Angie rated it really liked it
This slightly overly detailed book tells the story of how steroids invaded professional sports, including the Olympics. Beginning in the late 1970s, steroids and other drugs were being tested and researched by personal trainers and body builders on how to bulk up, increase speed, and fine tune athletic performance. The "steroid story" is told here, including the negative physical and mental side effects. This book also delves into the tabloid fodder of the mistakes made by Barry Bonds and Marion ...more
Matt Black
Jan 27, 2012 Matt Black rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good read, but a sad one. As a baseball fan myself, I could not help but be saddened by what I was reading. Records and statistics are more important in baseball than perhaps any other sport. And for some, as in the case with players like Barry Bonds, it became an obsession. The steroid scandal of BALCO was huge. It ran through not only baseball, but the Olympics and all other sports as well. This story is a page turner that reads like a crime novel with villain after villain appearing ...more
Pamela Montano
Sep 05, 2016 Pamela Montano rated it it was amazing
This book is about how Victor Conte and BALCO. Conte, knowing that steroids were popular with Olympic athletes, created a designer steroid undetectable by the Olympic tests, which at the time was the toughest testing out there. He then started selling those to other professional athletes. He sold to NFL players, MLB players, weight lifters and a whole host of Olympic athletes. One man, Jeff Novitzky, was tasked with getting the evidence to bring him down.
Feb 22, 2009 Archie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know it this book was written by two journalists, but since you have no idea where the "sources" come from, it really reads like a trashy novel.

This trashy; yet entertaining, "novel" revolves around steroids, BALCO, and namely, Barry Bonds. I am not sure what the authors intent was with the book, but I think at first, they wanted to really expose BALCO. In the end, they just went out to vilify Barry Bonds. I am sure this was done to sell more books.

I wish they had just stuck to BALCO and expo
Arjun Balaji
Dec 27, 2015 Arjun Balaji rated it liked it
3.5 stars. An interesting account on the BALCO scandal from the Chronicle reporters who originally broke the story, this book gave the best take on the scandal and humanized the athletes to some extent.

With millions at stake and more and more discourse around PEDs, I highly recommend reading this if you have any vested rooting interest in the major American sports.
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