Guest post: Jamaal reviews Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

Posted June 13, 2011 by Jamaal in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Guest post:  Jamaal reviews Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPNThose Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller, Tom Shales
Published by Little on December 2011
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 784
Source: my shelves

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Is it possible for a book that is 700+ pages to be disjointed?  To feel as if it is missing something?  Have you ever felt like you didn’t get the full story, or that you were cheated after reading something that could easily be confused for a dictionary?  If you have, then you know what I am feeling right now.  If you haven’t, and you don’t want to share in this not-so-wonderful feeling with me, then I suggest you stay as far away as you can from Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.

When I first heard that there was going to be a tell-all book about the Worldwide Leader, I was geeked.  I’m one of those guys who turn on ESPN as soon as I get home, whether it is at 6pm or 3am.  I turn to them whenever I need information on my favorite sports teams, or when I want a provocative sports documentary to watch.  For as long as I can remember, ESPN has been the first voice in everything related to athletics.  For me (and other sports fans in my generation), other sports entities just couldn’t match up.  It was ESPN or bust.  So when I found out that I would be able to find out all the dirt about my favorite sportscasters in their own words…how could I lose?!

Very easily, apparently.

Those Guys Have All the Fun is told strictly from the point of view of the people who lived the events, with very little in the way of narrative from the authors, except to move the topic from one event to the next.  It begins where ESPN began, and shows how the network grew from a small idea into a sports (and television) goliath.  There are interviews with the men whose brain child the idea of a 24-hour sports network was, as well as interviews with the parties who financed the company.  There are interviews with the more popular anchors from SportsCenter; hosts of many of the shows on the network; and even a few sections that involve the writers from ESPN.com and ESPN: The Magazine.  The chapters in the book are broken down into fractions of time, from the infancy of the network to the domination in sports that it enjoys today.  But it still felt like there was something missing, something that the die-hard fans of the network should have known, yet was still being withheld.  It wasn’t until I neared the end of the book that I realized what it was: there was none of the scandal that the book promised!

If I were a person who was looking to learn how to start a company, negotiate partnerships with the major sports leagues in the world, or learn how to start off as a nobody and end up with the highest title in the company–only to use that to leverage a new position elsewhere–then this book would be perfect for me.  From a business standpoint, this would be a great learning tool.  If I wanted to know about behind the scenes bickering between people who never set foot in front of a camera, this would be an excellent read.  But this book was marketed toward the ESPN fan; the person who doesn’t care how they get their sports information, just that they get it from knowledgeable people.  This book doesn’t focus nearly enough on the people who we are accustomed to watching, or the voices we are used to hearing; instead, it focused on the people who made decisions behind the scenes.  Those are the people that we wouldn’t know from a stranger on the street, so we don’t really feel a connection with them.  Unless you are a television network insider, does the name Tom Skipper ring a bell?  Do you care how he got promoted to the head of ESPN, and how others who wanted the job were pissed because they felt that he kissed ass in order to get the job?  Or would you rather find out, in detail, about the issue behind the on-air tension between Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser?  Yeah, me too.

Of all the things that this book failed to do, there is one thing that stood out the most: it failed to persuade me to feel one way or another about the company.  The scales have not tipped, even minimally, in my affection for ESPN.  It did, however, create in me a huge dislike for Chris Berman.

Chris Berman is probably the most recognizable name/face on ESPN.  He has been there from the beginning, and has made Sunday mornings during football season a must-see event on ESPN.  But the things that Berman said–and that were subsequently printed in the book–made him come off as an arrogant, self-absorbed prick.  In the section where it is described how Sunday Night Football was moved from ESPN to NBC–taking with it the exclusive rights to the highlights from earlier games–the only thing that Berman said was, “What about me? How could you do this to me? I built this damn show.”  There is another snippet of Berman, where he says that he has no knowledge of one of the bigger names on ESPN (Bill Simmons), only because that person is associated with the website and that is “a branch of the family tree that I don’t have any association with.”  I lost a large amount of respect for Berman after reading his quotes throughout the book.

Maybe my expectations for the book were too high; Dan Patrick, on his radio show, kept saying that this book was going to expose a lot of the in-office issues that the fans were never privy to.  Deadspin.com claimed that the book detailed a major issue between Erin Andrews and Michelle Beadle , where Beadle gave the opinion that Andrews handled her scandal incorrectly, and that Beadle would have done it completely differently.  None of that was ever said.  At most, Beadle said that what happened to Andrews was sad, and that she felt for her.

It was said that over 300 pages were edited out of the book.  Maybe they should have re-evaluated what they kept and what they removed.  If they were to just take the information that had to do with the people whom we fans have grown accustomed to and put that into a book, this book would be 400 pages shorter.  After reading Those Guys Have All the Fun, it feels as if I have learned about every star in the universe, but I have no idea what the names of the oceans on my own planet are.  The title states that ‘Those Guys Have All the Fun’; they must have been the only ones, because reading this book definitely wasn’t fun for me.  Out of five stars, Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN earns two from this reader.

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