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Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports Paperback – Mar 6 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; 1 edition (March 6 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592402682
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592402687
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.4 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #373,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
On a steamy May morning in 2001, at North Carolina State University, Victor Conte could see it all coming together. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Paperback
Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like everything in this book was basically covered by the newspapers as it happened. Everyone knows that Bonds got huge right before he broke the single season record. Everyone knows Giambi took steroids... it was in every paper in the world.

I would call this book a combination of: a) summary of commonly known things about Bonds and steroids b) an examination of steroids in track and field - specifically sprinting - 100m - 200m. The overlap being that everyone allegedly bought their steroids from BALCO.

I suppose when it came out, it provided some insights but reading it in January 2008 sort of gives it a dated/no longer relevent feel.

I don't think this book will be perpetuated anywhere near as long as Canseco's "Juiced" - which provides a more insider and less judgemental explanation of steroids in baseball.
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Aug. 13 2006
Format: Hardcover
I started reading this book on recommendation of my son, a professional sports aficionado like myself. He hinted it might have something profound to say about the dark underside of the modern sports scene. Okay! Let me think. Might it have to do with new revelations and concerns about pervasive illicit drug use in professional baseball and 'amateur' track-and-field? As I got into the book, I discovered that the story took a less sensational and constructive tack. It had just as much to say about people's obsession with immortality as it did about the sordid world of steroid huckersterism as seen in the nefarious workings of Conte and BALCO. If the reader keeps in mind that this book is both a timely reportage on an alarming trend in major sporting circles and a commentary on the deline of an American icon, the time reading will be well spent. Now for that profundity alluded to earlier. The use of performance enhancing steroids in baseball in 'improving' athletic achievement on the field is not the news. Rather, it is that the various leagues and franchises, are powerless to stop it because they have been complicit from the start as their way of filling seats and increasing revenue. The fact that Major League Baseball still allows the Giambis and Bonds of this world to play without a legal challenge is both the greater tragedy and farce of the book. A solid and engrossing read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 197 reviews
91 of 110 people found the following review helpful
A Sad Cautionary Tale Broader Than the More Publicized Bonds Disclosures March 25 2006
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's hard not to feel a profound sense of disappointment after reading this comprehensive, well-written investigative report on the abuse of steroids by athletes blinded by their need to be victorious in their various fields. While Barry Bonds is the primary subject here, San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada are not as interested in sabotaging the star player's legacy-in-the-making as they are in exposing the breadth of impact that Victor Conte, founder of BALCO (an acronym for the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative), had in plying a number of star athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

The reporters have done a remarkable job documenting the history of steroids, which were used as far back as the 1976 Summer Olympics where the East German women all too handily dominated the swimming events. One revelation for me from the book is how steroids do not directly enhance athletic performance but allow a greater endurance to train harder with a decreasing chance of injury and no need for recovery time. This nuance is critical in understanding how athletes can justify using such risky substances and escape accountability for their actions. This is the moral twist of the book and the one that resonates most clearly as a cautionary tale for future athletes in assessing their options.

Just as intriguing is the detailed chronicle of the rise and fall of the enterprising Conte, who went from being a bass guitarist for Tower of Power to the owner of a holistic health clinic to a highly paid consultant for renowned Olympic and professional athletes. Conte's real fortunes began with his discovery of a means to provide performance-enhancing drugs which would elude detection. At first, he saw the availability of obviously illegal steroids to targeted athletes as an opportunity to get them to endorse his legal nutritional supplements. Demand, however, went beyond his expectations, and he refocused his energy to identify creative ways to get the drugs into athletes, whether by injections, ointments or drips under the tongue.

At the center of the BALCO distribution scandal has been Bonds, who is certainly held up as the highest profile athlete under Conte's spell. The co-authors paint an alternately sympathetic and unflattering portrait of a prodigiously gifted athlete cast under the shadow of his father Bobby. The portrayal doesn't come across so much as exploitative as it does a typical case study into the competitive mindset of a professional athlete. Triggered by Mark McGwire's record-breaking 70 home runs during the 1998 season, Bonds was apparently determined to surpass McGwire by turning to steroids to bulk up his physique in the same way. His constant connection was personal trainer Greg Anderson, and through the next five seasons, Bonds' usage escalated and became more clandestine.

The result has been a stellar performance on the field with a hulking physique to match his superman-like transformation. Off the field, he evolved into a raging egomaniac not above cheating on his taxes or his wife. These are hostile allegations but ones that Williams and Fainaru-Wada support with reams of testimony by intimates and colleagues. In 2001, Bonds beat McGwire's single-season home run record, and he is on his way to beating Hank Aaron's career home run record this coming season. At the same time, Conte and Anderson, thanks to expert plea bargaining, saw minimal prison time for their actions. Whether Bonds is being held up as a scapegoat seems rather moot, as I cannot help but feel this will be an empty victory given the ample evidence the co-authors provide here. With Bonds' evasive responses in the press and the inevitable slander lawsuits, one gets little sense that there will by any abatement on the problem at hand.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Gorgeous @}->--- April 21 2006
By Little Miss Cutey - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of NBC Today, I've seen many segments that Mike Leonard has done. He is hilarious and unique and one story he did in particular, was a cross country journey with his parents and one of his daughters in an RV. I saw it and I loved it. His parents are adorable and funny too and they represent the kind of family you wished you belonged to (though I'm happy with my family). Apparently this story was one of their most memorable stories that's been done.

When you buy the book, it has the dvd along with it with the highlights of their vacation. They went through 18 States and were together throughout the whole time. It was an 8 thousand mile journey that ended with Mikes daughter giving birth (to Mikes parents first great-grandchild).

He wanted to write this book because it's relatable to so many families. And it is. It's funny and touching and heartwarming and so many other things in between.

I really recommend this book because as Mike thinks, it is relatable to so many people and it's interesting and entertaining and you'll really have a good laugh and enjoy it thoroughly. Great book.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Not fun to read, but it's not meant to be. June 16 2006
By M J Heilbron Jr. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Game of Shadows" is about...well, KNOW what it's about.

As a baseball fan, I found myself a little sad about the whole thing. So much about the last few years seems kinda bogus. Maris didn't deserve an asterisk. Bonds does, I think.

As a physician, I found myself a little scared. These guys are doing things to their bodies that's gonna kill 'em early, and kill 'em in foul ways. It's sickening to think how their metabolisms have been manipulated to create inhuman athletes; these people are not natural...they were not created by nature. They are artificial. They're Frankenstein's monsters.

As a moral person, I found myself angry. This is cheating, plain and simple, and it's being done in front of the most loyal yet impressionable fans...the kids.

The only problem with the book is the shrill and repetitive Bonds-bashing that gets a little old by the end. It's almost like the authors are really angry with Bonds; you get the sense that their personal feelings and sensibilities were hurt. Listen...I'm with you guys. No way does a basbeball player have not only the best years of his career, but the best years of ANYBODY'S career, after the age of 35, without SOME additional support. But sometimes the tone of the book is like that of a spurned lover out for revenge. A little too vituperative.

But hey...this is an important book. There is no doubt that Bonds' legacy is in question. The question you should have, and the one I surely have, is why hasn't baseball shut this down. Please...they are still punishing Pete Rose, yet this has all happened in front of their noses and they seem to look away. The argument could be made that the public wants the long ball, and this is the way to get it.

I say the public wants to see the game played hard and fair. Cleaning up this business would prove that the baseball administrators really are who they say they are: fans just like us.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Kay's Husband - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My wife read this book and told me about it, then we watched the DVD which accompanies the book. Change of pace reading for me from history or westerns, and a very refreshing one indeed.

While the book and DVD have some poignant segments, it is equally balanced with some outright comical segments. Mike Leonard's parents and the entire Leonard clan are pleasant to meet and this inside look into a zany, lovable group of people is one the reader will not soon forget. Come on, read it. I didn't think I'd care for it, either; but I loved it.

This book should get an award for not only its great American family profile but for its inventiveness. There are still real people out there and the foundations of the real America still exits.

Hats off to one of the more enjoyable reads/views I've ever experienced.

Well recommended. This book will restore any doubts one may have about our country.

Semper Fi.
85 of 108 people found the following review helpful
Every word of it true April 2 2006
By Jason A. Miller - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Let's get my credentials out of the way. I am not someone that baseball is going to "lose" if they don't solve the steroids problem. However, I take the allegations in "Game of Shadows" very, very seriously, and I'm not going to be celebrating any of Barry Bonds' home runs between now and 756.

I've been a baseball fan since the 1981 strike, when I discovered the game through its absence on TV and radio. I went to my first game at Shea Stadium in 1982 on the day that I turned 8 and a half. Mookie Wilson homered that day. He was not, as far as we know, on steroids. Mike Schmidt did not play for the Phillies that day, due to an injury. Schmidt recently came out with a book denouncing steroids, a book that's selling slightly fewer copies than "Game of Shadows".

Even though I raised myself a Mets fan, a team that a few years later rose and fell at the altar of white powder, I did grow up in a Yankees' household, and always took Roger Maris' record very seriously. I was moved and impressed when Mark McGwire brought the Maris family along on September 8, 1998, and made them such a central part of Number 62. When Barry Bonds later said he wanted to "take" Babe Ruth's record for career homers by a left-handed hitter and then warned us to "don't talk about him no more", I was not quite as moved, and certainly not impressed.

Bonds and Marion Jones are not the only big revelations in "Game of Shadows". Who would have imagined that such Bay Area fringe players as Armando Rios and Randy Velarde were BALCO customers? Then again, we learned from Jose Canseco's book last year that steroids alone do not make one a great athlete.

"Game of Shadows" is a remarkable work of investigative journalism. When I read books like this I always pay attention to the sources and footnotes. "Game of Shadows" is better footnoted than a typical Bob Woodward book, although for obvious reasons reveals fewer source names than a less controversial sports biography like "Namath". The authors make good use of Bonds' pre- and post-steroid statistics in their appendices. They're not able to name all of their sources, but the rest of the reporting has the ring of authenticity so I can accept that they did their best to verify all their interviews with anonymous sources "familiar with Bonds" or "familiar to Conte".

The only part of the book that disturbed me, for a moment, was the blatant editorializing. It's not enough for the authors to document that Victor Conte systematically sought to provide performance-enhancing drugs to an increasing roster of high-profile athletes, and it's not enough for them to prove that Barry Bonds injected himself with the whole range of Conte pharmaceuticals. They do descend to name-calling. Conte's departure from the group Tower of Power is turned into something creepy; his family's own legal problems, which don't appear related to BALCO, are also brought into the light of day. In the brief section describing Bonds' claiming of the single-season home run record in October 2001, his victory speech is described as "rambling".

However, even the editorial comments can be seen as objective journalism. Bonds himself has made increasingly bizarre public statements part of his public persona. And where the authors reprint some of the immature things Conte chose to submit to the Usenet forum, those Usenet posts are public record; anyone can access them even today, and when you do, you'll see that the authors didn't even use the most inflammatory Conte quotes. Conte's online persona, at least, is worthy of scorn.

What happens next? The book's final chapter and its epilogue show how both baseball (Bud Selig, Donald Fehr) and the government (the U.S. Attorney for San Francisco) have attempted to sweep the steroids mess under the carpet. The government seemed more interested in plugging leaks than in punishing lawbreakers. The authors reveal conflicts between USADA, the IRS and John McCain on one hand, and federal prosecutors on the other. The final chapter closes with a San Francisco Giants' flack defending Bonds' achievements, in spite of all the documentary evidence of fraud. This book wants to make baseball fans angry when the government and baseball officials will silently acquiesce to Bonds' history-making.

Hank Aaron's all-time home run record is going to fall one day. It would be nice to be able to root for the man who breaks it. I gave my best to Mark McGwire in 1998, and evidently all for nothing. I am not going to be fooled again so easily.

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