A Review of…Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

 

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If you are a baseball fan, chances are, you spend countless hours every year following the game you love in some capacity on ESPN. While most currently see ESPN as a sports entertainment giant who is almost too large, just as many probably forget the perilous times when ESPN was first getting their footing. When the idea for a 24 hour sports network started being talked about, almost no one believed there would be an audience to watch sports to that degree. Boy, were they wrong.  A station that started with televising whatever sports they could get their hands on from rugby to table tennis, has turned into an entertainment throng that dominates all types of media.

In Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales tell a story of the most dominant four letter network that has never been told before. In order to get the complete picture of the development of the network, the authors conducted over 500 interviews with people who were in some way associated with ESPN.

Some of the notable baseball interviewees include:

Chris “Boomer” Berman

Bob Costas

Peter Gammons

Bill Simmons

Mike Tirico

Ted Turner

Scott Van Pelt

Michael Wilbon

Probably the most intriguing part of the book is how it was written. Instead of creating a narrative based on the interviews they conducted, Miller and Shales let the people involved tell the story as an oral history. This makes the read much quicker and helps paint a more accurate picture of the stories that are shared in the book. Even though the book is almost 800 pages, the authors do a great job of not having this seem overwhelming as their writing style, coupled with the interesting perspectives of those who were interviewed, make the book a page turner.

While many of the topics do not directly relate to baseball, fans of America’s game have no doubt gotten to know many of the names telling the stories about other sports.

A few of the non-baseball topics discussed in the book include:

Erin Andrews discussing her stalker.

Rush Limbaugh speaking about his controversial comments regarding African American quarterback Donavan McNabb.

Dana Jacobsen talking about being suspended after she appeared intoxicated at an ESPN roast.

Even though the description of the ESPN history is not authorized by the company, it is clearly the most complete description ever compiled. With the interviews ranging from current and former presidents to the most well-known names ever to make an appearance on ESPN, to even the founders, the story is as complete as possible, even though the authors had to cut 350 pages from their first draft.

Just as in their first work together, “Life From New York”, the authors have again been able to compile a history of ESPN that was equally as compelling as their history of Saturday Night Live from their earlier work.

Miller stated that getting the interviews was by no means easy. The hardest one to get was President Barrack Obama, who finally consented to the interview right before the author’s deadline established by the publishers. The author also stated that it took some extra pushing on his part and on Shales’ as well to get the interviewees to open up on topics they weren’t necessarily comfortable speaking about. Their ability to get these people to open up about their lives and relationships with and around ESPN is what makes this book work.

Without their diligent work, they wouldn’t have found the information that astonished them both the most, that there were so many times in the company’s history when things could have fallen apart completely. What a tragedy that would have been.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

 

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