Those Guys Have All the Fun
It's big and it's bloated but – like the sports empire that it covers – this is a book that you don't want to miss.
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Embarrassments include familiar but nonetheless sobering accounts of the network’s internal jock culture, plagued by numerous episodes of sexual harassment. “Monday Night Football” announcer Mike Tirico, is among those cited for bad behavior.Skip to next paragraph
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Many of the circumstances and feuds explored in the book belie its title. Examples abound of the network underpaying executives, broadcasters, and staffers alike, while also striving to avoid the merest hint of celebrity even when it’s obvious. (Think Patrick and Olbermann’s “Big Show” heyday in the early 1990s).
Missteps and critical drubbings, not always one and the same, also can be found here. A disastrous venture into ESPN-brand cell phones provides juicy fodder. The authors relate a memorable exchange between Apple chief Steve Jobs and ESPN’s Bodenheimer at a Disney shareholder meeting. Upon introduction, Jobs tells Bodenheimer the venture is the dumbest thing he can imagine. The future iPhone inventor proves prophetic, as ESPN and Disney went on to lose $135 million on the venture.
Mark Shapiro embodies much that is good and bad about ESPN. His 12-year tenure comes in for close inspection, with mixed verdicts.
Shapiro was in his mid-30s when he left ESPN in 2005. By that time, he had launched the popular and profitable “Pardon the Interruption” hosted by the sparring Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon; shepherded the well-received “SportsCentury” documentary series; and bet the programming house on poker coverage and won big.
At the same time, Shapiro infuriated the NFL with a prime-time drama chronicling the misbehavior of professional football players; erred with the expensive and disastrous launch of a morning show called “Cold Pizza;” and lost the rights to NASCAR races.
Shapiro also ran everyone ragged. He presided over weekly 5-hour staff meetings, where eating was prohibited, along with individual bathroom breaks. Those guys may not have had much fun, after all.
These chronicles and anecdotes make for enjoyable reading and the authors must be credited with a thorough exploration of ESPN’s various eras and transformations.
Still, Miller and Shales fall far short of a perfect game. On too many occasions, “Those Guys Have All the Fun” detours to superfluous side roads, choppy editing, and puzzling monologues. Exhibit A: three uninterrupted pages of radio host Colin Cowherd discussing his media philosophy, an extended non sequitur jammed into a section ostensibly about The ESPYs, the network’s awards show.
Criticizing the duration of Cowherd’s quote and its misplaced slot overlooks a larger question: What need is there for an extended rumination on The ESPYs? It’s more than a stretch when Miller and Shales write sentences like this: “One of the key turning points for the ESPYs occurred in 2000, when the setting was moved to Las Vegas …” Um, sure it was. What sports fan doesn’t savor that moment?