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ESPN: Wild times behind the scenes are laid bare in "Those Guys Have All the Fun"

"Those Guys Have All the Fun" offers a warts-and-all portrayal of ESPN's infamously male-dominated culture.

By Husna Haq / May 26, 2011

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It’s a story even sports spurners will appreciate. The rise of an American corporate and cultural colossus, from a $9,000 cable TV start-up that no one thought would succeed to a media leviathan that encompasses six domestic cable networks, 46 international networks, a radio station, websites, a magazine, and a restaurant chain, and is worth more than the NBA, the NHL, and Major League Baseball combined.

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It’s the story of ESPN and it’s contained in the 763-page behemoth, “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” by Pulitzer-Prize-winning former Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales and former journalist and cable executive James Miller.

The editorial genius behind “Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live,” Shales and Miller used a similar method, relying on more than 550 interviews compiled into a seamless oral history, to tell the story of ESPN’s stratospheric rise.

And what a rise. “Those Guys” is peppered with revelations about big egos and even bigger libidos, salacious gossip, sexual escapades, drugs and booze, backstabbing, and plenty of backstage drama.

As The New York Times knowingly implied, “Inevitably, the most straightforward history of ESPN will cause some queasiness in Bristol.” (ESPN is headquartered in Bristol, Conn.)

One reason: ESPN’s infamously male-dominated culture. “The culture in Bristol was intense, and intensely male,” Time magazine mused in its review of the book. “Betting on games was epidemic. There were drugs. There was sexual harassment. There was sex in the stairwells. ‘We had no social life because we worked all the time,’ an early director of production says. ‘There were a lot of interoffice romances going on because you didn't have a chance to meet anybody else....’ ”

And according to Shales and Miller, in the early days, sexual harassment was rampant.

“Nobody has it tougher than the women trying to clear a path through the unreconstructedly male jungle of professional sports in general and ESPN in particular,” wrote Time reviewer Lev Grossman. “Karie Ross, an early anchor, describes male staffers flipping on the Playboy Channel just to watch her reaction; she wound up making a speech about sexual harassment in the cafeteria. Julie Anderson recalls getting hit on by Mike Tyson during his rape trial.”

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