James Andrew Miller & Tom Shales | 2011 | 763 pages
Like the rest of you, I don’t get to watch much television, but when I do, it’s ESPN [somewhere my wife is rolling her eyes]. SportsCenter, Sunday Night Baseball, Friday Night Fights, Saturday college football- I am a walking, talking target demographic- so I thought I ought to know a little bit about the enterprise delivering all this content to my eyeballs.
Miller and Shales have produced what is effectively an oral history of ESPN- the book is a collection of interview transcripts from past and present on-air personalities, managers and entertainment and sports industry people. What results is a fairly entertaining- if a bit long and belaboring- analysis of the incredible rise of an idea- an all-sports regional television network- into one of the most ubiquitous entertainment properties on earth over the course of about thirty years.
The book is about 200 pages too long thanks to several too-long riffs on seemingly non-events [the 75-page opera about the failed Tony Kornheiser Monday Night Football experiment comes to mind], but ultimately it deals with a fascinating American business story which is wholly unique in its cast of characters and central theme.
For anyone who has ever found themselves humming ‘da-da-da, da-da-da’ while waiting for the train or the water to boil, this is the book for you.