Friday, July 08, 2011

The ESPN Book

Does one have to be a sports fan to enjoy “Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World of ESPN?” Probably not, but it certainly helps. An oral history overseen (does one write an oral history?) by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, the book tells – through the memories of some of the network’s biggest stars, both in front of and behind the cameras – the story of ESPN, from the very beginning when Bristol, Connecticut was little more than a dot on the map (no disrespect intended) to now, when ESPN is almost omnipresent in the world of sports.

As with all oral histories, the book is only as good as the stories that people have to tell. And for the most part, these are good stories, although after a while you find yourself trying hard to care about the latest change in power and corresponding changes in management style. That sort of thing is interesting when the subjects are people that you really care about. But does it mean anything to the average reader whether Steve Bornstein or Mark Shapiro was a better boss, and had a better vision for the company? Probably not.

What most people are going to want to read are the memories from the on-air talent, people like Chris Berman, Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, etc. And for the most part, those memories don’t disappoint. There’s fascinating stuff about the evolution of Sportscenter, there’s good stuff about the comings and goings of major sports on ESPN, and near the end, the section which discusses how ESPN blew it and lost the services of Al Michaels and John Madden is quite entertaining. And then there’s a lot of stuff that you just skim through.

Overall, I recommend the book to anyone with an interest in sports. But if that does not describe you, then you’re not going to want to read this one.

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