Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Review- Those Guys Have All the Fun

And now for the Case and Point review of "Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN"

 "Those Guys Have All the Fun", written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, starts from the very start of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.  From it's humble beginnings to the growth of an empire, from the pratfalls and errs of the humans who are inevitably in charge of the network up until last year and it's growth to that point.

From the remarkable coincidences of perfection in tiny Bristol, the battle for financial backing, the lucks of draws that lead the company into prominence, and the way that ESPN forced it's way into the national spotlight through tenacity and right-place-right-time make the story what it is and as Miller and Shales did in their Saturday Night Live tell all "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told By Its Stars, Writers, and Guests", the book is told from the people themselves.

Chris Berman
Through 700 plus pages the voices of ESPN past and present weave the story from 1979 until 2010.  They tell of uncontrolled parties, issues with management, racial and sexual boundaries, issues from outsiders, buy outs, contracts, news room drama, and personality conflicts that grew as the company has grown into the all encompassing product presented 24/7 buy your local cable operator.

As you read through the stars of the book become the personalities and naturally those personalities are the on air products of the past.  The three big names that receive the most attention lie in Tony Kornheiser, Chris Berman, Dan Patrick, and Keith Olbermann.  Also the behind the scenes players like the albino programmer John Walsh, and the man responsible for the massive entertainment growth at ESPN, Mark Shapiro, shape a large part of the stories.  And for those wondering about it, yes.  Berman is as pompous in the book as he comes off on TV.

Overall, the book was a good read.  There was little that was not touched in the book from the history of ESPN.  Drug problems, drinking problems, sexual harassment, terrible failures, and personal issues are all fair game in the tell all book.  It's something I recommend for anyone who enjoys the four letter behemoth who has a few weeks to kill in reading a book.

The biggest issue I found with "Those Guys..." came towards the end of the tome.  As the book came closer and closer to the present day things seemed less put together.  The editing felt rougher, the time lines felt jumpier, and the book on the whole was not as smooth of a read as the prior 600 pages. 

Dan Patrick
This could have something to do with a rushed publishing deadline and the fact that some 300 pages were edited out but for what was a steady and informative read from the very beginning it felt like far too rough of a landing.  It leaves a sour taste in your mouth that can effect the way the rest of the book is looked at in the end.

If you're the average male who loves ESPN the book may feel tedious at times before getting to any of the more juicy stuff.  If you're someone who just loves broadcasting and sports this book is a must read.  To see how the ESPN empire was formed, to get a deeper view of the larger than life people behind the screens, and to the thought process in a truly dynamic company is all very fascinating.

"Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN"- B
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