Sunday, May 13, 2012

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller, Tom Shales

Although I rarely watch sports on TV, I love to read about sports. When I saw Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN I couldn’t wait to read about the who’s and how’s, and the first 350 pages were absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately, the book was 748 pages long - a tome, a doorstop, a trotline weight. The other unfortunate thing about this book is that those guys really weren't having any fun (stuck in Bristol, Connecticut, working 24-7, and at each other's throats constantly), and neither does the reader.

I suspect that those who read the hard cover had strained wrists by the end, just as those of us who listened to the audio version had strained patience from listening to a play-by-play that went into waaaayyyy too much detail. This book could have easily been edited down to a really good 500 pages. Instead, it is a mediocre 748-page hardcover and 16-hour audio.

The insight into the birth and growth of the ESPN sports empire, and the juicy behind-the-scenes corporate boardroom entanglements were pretty interesting, but you sure had to slog through a lot of minutia to get the story.

Here are a few highlights of the ESPN rise to sports broadcast dominance:
  1. Bill and Scott Rasmussen (father/son), who have virtually no experience with sports or broadcasting, borrow $20,000 from friends and family in 1978 to buy a transponder on RCA SATCOM, and ESPN was born. Seriously!
  2. Getty Oil invests $15 million in 1979 and ESPN stumbles towards success.
  3. ESPN gets TV rights to NFL games in 1987 and ESPN is sling-shot towards success.
  4. ESPN gets TV rights to Major League Baseball in 1989, and the rest is history.
Read it? Only if you are obsessed with ESPN and the “players,” love holding really heavy books, or have time to burn. Otherwise, wait for the better version, which no doubt someone is penning as we speak.

1 comment:

  1. I am a BIG sports fan and an ESPN nerd, so needless to say I loved this book and the minutia. However, I can see how that would not appeal to most. Many of my friends could not put it down, but I preferred to read it in small bits before bed (much like Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamozov). I will say that the last part of the book that dealt with the recent history did drag for me and I felt they could have seriously shortened that section. Great review!