Jul 9, 2011

Those Guys Have All The Fun Review

If your looking for a great Summer read look no further than Those Guys Have All The Fun - Inside The World Of ESPN. Whether your a fan of ESPN or not there’s something for everyone in this book about the 30 year history of ESPN.

Having limited ESPN exposure usually through ESPN feeds on Canada’s answer to ESPN, TSN. I was really surprised how much I liked this book. Finding out how ESPN started out and all the behind the scenes, the good, the bad and the ugly from ESPN rise to a global media sports giant was truly intriguing.

From the humble beginnings of a $9000 investment in 1978. A great decision to buy a RCA SAT-COM in 1978 as well to the first televised NFL draft and finally getting the TV rights to NFL games in 1987 James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales have found a way to keep readers focused on a history with some great interviews over 700+ pages.

I love the way the James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales compiled all their various interviews with ESPN past and present. It really must of been fun doing the interviews and compiling every little tidbit of sex, celebrities, parties, rivalries, fights, racism ,sexism, gambling and oh ya sports.

I have a list of people who want to borrow it asap. Pick it up you won’t be disappointed. A fun Summer read.

Those Guys Have All The Fun: The Inside World Of ESPN By James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
ISBN: 978-0-316-04300-7 $27.99
763 pages (8 pages of black and white photos)

Questions and Answers with James Miller and Tome Shales

What changes has the existence and dominance of ESPN brought to the world of sports and sports media?

Given their enormous appetite and financial strength ESPN is in a position to do a lot of things that he broadcast networks and other cable sports businesses can’t afford or can’t handle. This has had a profound impact on the competitive climate of sports television.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while you were writing this book?

ESPN’s tremendous success was hardly preordained. There were numerous times in its history when it almost collapsed, and there were several times when few wanted anything to do with them. We think of ESPN in its current form, but it wasn’t always that way. There were some incredibly bleak years.

Were there any major themes that jumped out at you as you were writing?

Somehow the right people wound up being in the key jobs at the right times-and that’s true both for people in front of the camera and those in executive offices. This is a network that was shaped to a large degree by the personalities and sensibilities of less then a dozen men, including(but not limited to) Scotty Connal, George Bodenheimer, Dick Ebersol, Steve Walsh, Steve Bornstein, and John Skipper.

Your last book, Live from New York, was also about television, but a very different kind of television from that of ESPN. What drew you to a sports TV network after Saturday Night Live?

JM: I’ve been watching ESPN since 1980 but didn’t really know much about how it got to be so huge, or who the key players were. Beyond that, I wondered what life was like behind the scenes for the people I was watching and for their colleagues off camera. In this book, we hope to give people a real sense of why ESPN is a such a broadcasting and cultural force, while also reporting about many of the key events that helped shape its identity.

TS: Unlike Jim, I am lapsed sports fan, but even I was aware of ESPN because of the traits it had blazed in production and promotion; its “This is SportsCenter” campaign got my attention when it ran, and I watched, more than once, the network’s lengthy compilations of SportsCenter spots. I didn’t always recognize the athletes, but I still got 90 percent of the jokes, enjoyed the spots for the clever comic approach, and hugely admired the talent that went into the campaign.

This is your second book to tell a story about an organization using oral history. What do you like about that format? What does it bring to the book?

It brings impeccable verisimilitude. It also helps convey the voice and personalty of the speaker. Somehow when quotes get interpolated in to a straight narrative format, everybody ends up sounding alike. The oral history was Jim’s idea for Live from New York, and we agreed it would also work well with the ESPN book, though the scope of the subject would require more narrative links than Live from New York did. Still, the non-quote parts of the book were kept to a minimum so as to hew to the “in their own words” idea. People who think we do it because it’s easier” are wrong; it is much, much harder.

How many interviews did you conduct? How did you go about choosing what parts of interviews to use and how to frame them into a narrative? Were people generally open or were they reluctant to speak with you?

TS: Jim did nearly all the interviews, more than 500. I helped set some up. We spent ten months on President Obama, pleading and cajoling White House staffers. The president came through a the very last minute; Jim and i were very grateful.

JM: Many people were interviewed numerous times. Some were reluctant at first, some forgot things but later remembered them, and some had to be confronted with questions about honesty. There were a couple interviews that were three or four hours long but only yielded a paragraph or two. Still, those interviews were worthwhile because we got such great material.

How much did you cut from the published version of Those Guys? Did you cut it because the lawyers told you to, or for other reasons?

JM: There were roughly 350 pages cut from the initial draft, and many of those were cast aside because the book was simply getting too big. There were a lot of mart and funny people who shared stores and insights; it was frustrating sometimes not to be able to include everyone.

TS: I read a ridiculous review of Live from New York years after it was published in which the reviewer groundlessly speculated that the paperback version of the book was different from the hardcover probably because lawyers had told us to take things out. In the first place, the hardcover version got lawyer’d plenty, and in the second pace, the paperback had additional material in it, not less. It amazes me what conclusions will come to, out of sheer imagination. very little was cut from Those Guys Have All The Fun at the lawyers’ behest.


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