Book Review- Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

It’s impossible to satisfy all readers when it comes to the content of a book that is as highly anticipated as Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.  And because early reviews seem split as to what should, or should not, have been included in the book, it looks like authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales have a success on their hands in at least whetting the appetite of them all.

Those who are interested in how ESPN became arguably the most successful cable television network in history will have little problem digesting the behind-the-scenes tidbits into what made ESPN, well, ESPN.  I fall into this camp.  As much as I appreciated Miller & Shales’ first-hand accounts of those who played a role in the history of the World Wide Leader, I feel it could have been done in less than the 745 pages (763 if you read the acknowledgements and index) in this book.  To successfully navigate the book I suggest ingesting it in small chunks.  There is  THAT much information.

For those who are looking for more details into the in-fighting between staffers and who had affairs with whom, some of that is in the book,  but I’m sure not enough for some.  I, for one, thought the personality conflicts and romantic hook-ups, although not my cup of tea, were relevant to the discussion of what was happening at the network at the time.

The seminal events that shaped the development of ESPN are all in this book; the humble beginnings of Founder Bill Rasmussen selecting the sleepy town of Bristol, CT as the network’s headquarters, the hiring of on-air and production staff, how ESPN built the brand that is SportsCenter, its acquisition of rights to the NFL, MLB, and NBA, and its eventual rise as the self-proclaimed “World Wide Leader in Sports”.

The not-so-attractive events are also in the book; charges of sexual harassment of women and the perception of ESPN as a “frat house” in the early years, the dismissal and suspension of various on-air and administrative staff, and broadcast blunders such as LeBron James’ “The Decision”.

What I found great about the book was being reminded of all the events that happened at ESPN that may have escaped many of our memories.  Remember Bonds on Bonds and Dream Job?

Along with being an oral history, Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, is also a business book on how a television network was born with less than $40,000 and grew to one with annual revenues of upwards of $8 billion.   All in a little over 30 years!

Miller and Shales conducted interviews with over 500 people to be used in the book.  All the big names are included; Berman, Ley, Patrick (Dan & Mike), Olbermann, Simmons, Tirico.  President Obama also has a blurb as do those who are in competition with ESPN, namely Dick Ebrsol (formerly of NBC) and David Hill (Fox Sports).

I would have liked to have read more into what are on peoples’ minds about the future of ESPN.  I guess we’ll find out soon as the network plans to make a bid next month on the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.  If successful I’m sure Miller & Shales will include the details in the paperback version of the book.

All-in-all Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN is a must read for anyone interested in the history of television in general and of sports media in particular.

Make sure to listen to our podcast with author James Andrew Miller.

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