Monday, March 2, 2015

Staff Review: Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

There are many sports I find enjoyable. The TV is always on during the Olympics; all my years in marching band and pep band created a love of football and basketball; watching some college sports live (Clarke men’s volleyball!) is fun. However, in many cases I would rather read or watch a movie about certain sports than see the actual event either live or on TV. For example I have always been fascinated by the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal, but really do not like watching a baseball game. Give me a summary in a book or a movie with a game montage and I’m a happy camper.

Perhaps that is why I was drawn to Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. It is an oral history of the rise of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. The detailed story of the network from conception to its current standing as a worldwide source of sports on TV, in print and online is told by the people who lived it. Many sports are touched on in relation to how they came to be shown on ESPN such as football and basketball (both pro and college), baseball, hockey, soccer, NASCAR, the X games, and the Olympics. Of course there is much discussion of “behind the scenes” at the network providing a peek into contract negotiations with both individuals and companies as well as descriptions of the ESPN culture in Bristol, Connecticut.

An oral history is the perfect format for a story like this because it is presented only via direct quotes. There is some explanatory text but the story is told directly from the mouths of the speakers themselves. This format provides both sides of an argument – and there are many – or all aspects of a scandal – there are a few of those, too – without giving the authors editorial opinion. Note that because the title or description of each person speaking is only listed the first time they appear in the book, it can be challenging to keep everyone straight at the beginning.

Other oral histories include Live From New York about the development and rise of Saturday Night Live also by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller and The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley and Colby Tanner.

 ~Emily, Adult Services

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