Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN
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Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  5,799 ratings  ·  471 reviews
It began, in 1979, as a mad idea of starting a cable channel to televise local sporting events throughout the state of Connecticut. Today, ESPN is arguably the most successful network in modern television history, spanning eight channels in the Unites States and around the world. But the inside story of its rise has never been fully told-until now. Drawing upon over 500 in...more
Hardcover, 763 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2011)
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This was essentially two books in one, and was wildly uneven. The first hundred pages or so were the grindingly slow recap of the origins of ESPN, and the detailed description of chasing down financing and pricing out satellite transponders was less than riveting. (Having said that, I am now well prepared to start a fledgling cable company, and am currently finalizing a bid to purchase the rights to broadcast old episodes of Entertainment Tonight.) I am not one to flip ahead in a book that I'm r...more
The most interesting stat in this book: About $4 of every monthly cable bill in the country goes to ESPN . . . even if the customer never watches ESPN.

"If you never cried when your team lost, you really shouldn't work at ESPN. You just won't get it." --Jean McCormick

"This place is really like an island of misfit toys, like who else would employ these people? What would they do?" --Steve Berthiaume

"Ted Williams was actually setting up snacks for us because he was afraid we would be tired, hungry,...more
This is an interesting, but flawed, book about the history of ESPN, full of lively stories and good analysis of the network's rise to prominence, but ultimately rather soft. It's an oral history, which I didn't realize going in and found off-putting to read at first. Ultimately it's an effective story-telling mechanism, but it really limits the extent of distant analysis of what happened, and especially criticism of the parties involved.

Nonetheless, you do get a good feeling for a few of the mai...more
3.5 stars. A fascinating (sometimes more than others) look at the lifespan of EPSN. As an oral history, this book really isn’t “written” but instead involves the cobbling together of various firsthand accounts, with the occasional commentary by the authors thrown in. This works for the most part because you get a sense of the various personalities. Also, it’s fun when people contradict each other.

The thing that struck me the most, at least at first when my husband asked why the hell I was readi...more
This book is great if you love sports. Rather, this book is great if you love watching ESPN, which is not the same thing. Shales does the same basic trick he did with the SNL book -- interviews anyone who had anything to do wit the subject, and strings the interview quotes into a story, with a few bits of exposition tucked in here and there. That sounds easy, but making it all come out coherently, with some semblance of order, must have been a monumental task, and my hat is off to him.

That said,...more
It's obvious that this one is too long. The book is 763 pages, and the audiobook, which is what I'm doing, is 24 CDs. After the book gets done chronicling "the rise of ESPN," it really loses steam and starts to meander -- just covering the big headlines from the past decade or so, one after another. My impression, whether or not this is true, is that the authors did a mountain of interviews, selected every halfway interesting tidbit, and then arranged them in chronological order. This may be goo...more
Michael Berman
Some oral histories are really interesting, because they have a "you were here" aspect to them that a traditional history doesn't have. Others are just an excuse to allow the "writer" to slack off, and not add any context or analysis. While it is interesting (at least a bit) to read about the specifics behind the rise of ESPN, this book, in my opinion falls into the latter category. I made it about a third of the way through before I gave up.
The last time it took me four months to read a book, it was "Europe Central." Before that, "Infinite Jest," and prior to that one, "Don Quijote."

In other words, the last time it took me four months to read a book, the book had the decency to be good.

"Those Guys Have All The Fun" should have been a breeze for me. I should have had a blast reading it. After all, I'm its total target audience: an ENORMOUS fan of both oral histories and sports. I've never read an oral history that I didn't adore. I'...more
Rich Sanidad
I thought this was going to be a lot better than it was. I didn't mind the epistolary-like format; in fact, I thought it was appropriate for this type of book. However, I did have a problem with the inordinate amount of space allotted to executives. If you look at the index which lists where to find quotes from all of the personalities that are featured in the book, you can easily see that the majority of the book is composed of quotes from presidents/vice-presidents/etc. It made sense for the e...more
Sean Saxe
This book has two conflicting problems. First of all, it is too long to read as a single narrative. Secondly, it is too short to adequately delve into the intricacies of the stories it wishes to tell. For every fully developed and interesting vignette, there are half a dozen 1-2 page summaries of what seemed to be very interesting and nuanced developments in the company. When confronted with these stories, often the editors had a hard time fully contextualizing their importance to ESPN or the sp...more
Adrian Carpio
I grew up watching ESPN. I was a 90s ESPN child. I watched it everyday. I stayed up to watch Olbermann and Patrick. My friends and I would share catchphrases. I loved Craig Kilborn, SO I was excited to read this tome (at 800 pages, it is a tome).

The first 2 chapters were excruciatingly boring. It read like a business text. As a result it was difficult for me to get into the flow of the narrative. Luckily it picked up.

The book is told through first person accounts. However, the chapters are long...more
Steven Salaita
I have so much to say about this book, which aggravates me because really it's kind of silly (the book AND my aggravation).

I was an undergraduate during the golden years of The Big Show and the incorporation of ESPN into a part of indispensable mainstream culture. My roommates and I used to watch Dan and Keith and Craig almost every night. It was a ritual. So the book evoked a fair amount of nostalgia for me.

However, Shales and Miller have no sense of critical acumen. The book is mostly self-t...more
This lengthy oral history of ESPN had a huge amount of buzz before it. There was an embargo on its release to help drum up interest.

But like a summer blockbuster, all the interesting stuff was in the trailer. The book is 700 pages full of TV executives talking about expanding market share, blowhard ESPN anchors talking about how wonderful they are and how awful other people are, and then there are bits and pieces about the seemingly rampant sexual harassment at the cable sports network.

I watch a...more
If taken literally the sub-title would suggest that if all the fun to be had has been had by the guys at ESPN then none is left for the reader, which is about right. This book is as much fun as the worst high school reunion you ever went to—mostly boring stories, hyped glories, and stabs at score settling by ESPN’s mostly male “mean girls.” Basically ESPN was a brilliant idea, well-executed (minus the sexist shenanigans that plagued its early years and the infighting for credit), particularly fr...more
Jamaal Buckley
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 ESP...more
Devyn Duffy
Jan 29, 2013 Devyn Duffy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ESPN viewers, present or past
Presents itself as "the story" of ESPN, but it's only one possible story. It's in-depth about the things that interest the authors, but the choices of what to cover and what not to cover are seemingly random: for example, pages upon pages of Tony Kornheiser (why?), but little about hockey, not a word about how ESPN came to air Australian Rules Football in the '80s, almost nothing about soccer until more than 700 pages in, and the Women's College World Series is not even mentioned. NFL Primetime...more
I appreciate the fact that the authors put in a lot of work in collecting all of their interviews and in organizing them into a cohesive narrative. At times, I was a little disappointed in what they chose to emphasize and what not to emphasize. For instance, I thought the discussion over the politics of the Monday Night Football announcer booth dragged on for too long. The book also mentions ESPN's reality show "Dream Job" from a few years back and notes that it received an extraordinarily high...more
I couldn't go below four with this one, even thought I thought long and hard about it. This is an exhaustive tome on the vagaries of all things espn. This book fascinated me for long stretches (and the stretches are loooong indeed), illuminating things going on behind the scenes of events that marked epochs through my childhood. On some level, even though I knew that it couldn't possibly be true, I believed that the espn headquarters was a place where mascost and athletes roamed freely, acting o...more
My family didn't have cable when I was a kid, and my parents weren't sports fans, so really I learned to appreciate sports at the same time I learned to appreciate watching SportsCenter at lunch between classes in college. I remember the classic Olbermann and Patrick years very well.

This book is interesting because of that, but it has its flaws. One is the sheer proliferation of characters, who are only introduced the first time they appear in the oral history format. I'd find myself reading a s...more
It give it 3.5 stars if I could. Overall, a very well done piece with an exhausting amount of research done by the authors. The executive side of the book is dry and has a lot of self-celebration. It's hard for me to relate to wealthy white men complaining that 250,000/ year wasn't enough for their efforts. The ESPN personalities make this book worth reading. As expected, the Olberman, Simmons and Kornheiser sections of the book provided the most entertainment and candid passages.

The main highl...more
Heavy in weight, overt pomposity and self-congratulation, this book is for the future business executive who also happens to be a sports lover. Perhaps they can have it at all chapter meetings of the Toastmasters' clubs, as well.

The beginning is fascinating/whip-smart/gleeful only to turn into one of the most boring books I've ever read. Too bad that meant slogging through 400+ pages of the tedious stuff as this tome comes in at over 700 pages.

Not even for the die-hard ESPN fans; I only hope an...more
Motez Bishara
Overall an excellent read. Slightly too long at a shade under 800 pages, but reading on a Kindle or iPad makes it a lot easier to skim through (lugging an 800 page book around is totally impractical).

I'd say 20% of the text could have been shaved, because a lot of the interviews overlapped with what had been said already. Reading this book was a bit like shopping at a flea market, you had to sift through a lot of ordinary content to find a gem. Acerbic quotes from Kornheiser, Olberman, Simmons a...more
This is the history of ESPN told exclusively through over 500 interviews with individuals such as Chris Berman, Robin Roberts, Keith Olbermann, Hannah Storm, Tony Kornheiser, Erin Andrews and dozens of other individuals who have been executives of ESPN or who have worked as on-air personalities since the cable network began. Each of these individuals was open about the hiring, firing, suspensions, scandals, and rivalries that have been a part of ESPN's turbulent growth from a local cable show to...more
Massive oral history of the origins of ESPN and its subsequent rise to the top of the sports entertainment world. A bit too long and loosely focused but, for a fan, a worthwhile read.
Tim Murnin
Long, meandering and filled with pages and pages of details about things no one would care about (took forever to get to the part where the network actually went on the air)
I learned more about how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace from this book than from any other source. Also, could have been edited down to 500 pages easily.
If you've watched ESPN from the start of the network, when there were tractor pulls, you'll appreciate every chapter. The interviews with former executives and on air personalities are very telling about how challenging it was to work there and create the machine that now exists. The book consists wholly of interviews which are cleverly strung together into a cohesive story. If you're someone who made sure to watch SportsCenter when Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann did the show, you'll really app...more
Scott Kotarides
I knew ESPN had a lot of ridiculous hi jinks before I read this book but I walked away shaking my head at some of the behaviors of its employees. I also realize exactly how serendipity works in life. Starting a business requires know how but more so a lot of luck. ESPN had a lot of amazing bits of luck along the way into become one of the world's dominate media outlets. This book will fill you in about all of your favorite ESPN personalities. For example everyone knows Keith Olberman is really h...more
Dec 15, 2011 Mischelle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sports fans
I'm glad that I got the audio of this book. I wouldn't really understand the business side of ESPN. From what I could understand from the audio when the author talked about the business end, seem really hard! The stuff the Rasmussens had to go through get the station going and all the personalities they had to deal with. It's a wonder ESPN got off at all.

This audiobook brought back some memories! I remember when ESPN was getting started. When we got cable in our small apartment, I watched a litt...more
Randy Mantiply
I had this as an audiobook, and for me it was ideal with the way I listen to audiobooks; I usually only listen to them when walking at lunch during workdays, and depending on the weather, this may mean only one to two hours per week. The book was over 28 hours, so it took seemingly forever. It recounts the history of ESPN via first-hand accounts of managers and on-air personalities - it was pretty disjointed with the different viewpoints, but the different viewpoints were presented in chunks so...more
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James Andrew Miller is the author of Running in Place. He has written for The New York Times, Life, Newsweek, and other publications, and was executive producer of two prime-time television series.
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