ESPN began as an outrageous gamble with a lineup that included Australian Rules Football, rodeo, and a rinky-dinky clip show called Sports Center. Today the empire stretches far beyond television into radio, magazines, mobile phones, restaurants, video games, and more, while ESPN's personalities have become global superstars to rival the sports icons they cover.
Chris Berman, Robin Roberts, Keith Olbermann, Hannah Storm, Bill Simmons, Tony Kornheiser, Stuart Scott, Erin Andrews, Mike Ditka, Bob Knight, and scores of others speak openly about the games, shows, scandals, gambling addictions, bitter rivalries, and sudden suspensions that make up the network's soaring and stormy history. The result is a wild, smart, effervescent story of triumph, genius, ego, and the rise of an empire unlike any television had ever seen.
©2011 Tom Shales, James Andrew Miller (P)2011 Hachette
This "oral history" is the utter definition of "Inside Baseball". If you are very interested in ESPN, and or the TV/media business you'll enjoy this book. If you're only a casual fan this may no be the book for you.
The first "part" is a slow burn because it's mainly about the very early days of ESPN. Literally stuff like how they bought the satellite time and cable operator negations. Once it got to more modern times and talked about people I actually had heard of I started to enjoy it more.
This book had a lot of interesting content and background. It got a bit long and rambling towards the end, where they spent more time on more minute details from recent activities vs. the early days (which were more interesting). The performance, particularly parts read by the author, were not very good. The author's voice is very scratchy and hard to listen to. Also annoying was that they couldn't be troubled to pronounce many sports figures' names correctly.
I am a big fan of ESPN and have watched it from the very beginning. The birth and growth of this network was intriguing to me. I was expecting a sports book. But surprisingly we get a lot of insight into corporate America, contract negotiations, and company politics. For insight into executive management of a high growth company, this book delivered a surprising result.
Unfortunately, the writers were lazy by just citing interview after interview. The content was solid, and the access they received was unprecedented. But there was no insight, perspective, nor conclusions on the events that occurred over the 30 years. Plus, some quotes and conversations appeared to come out of nowhere and provided little overall insight.
The two male actors performed fine. However, the female voice was WAY over the top. I cannot imagine Michelle Tafoya, Erin Andrews, Linda Cohn, or Robin Roberts acting SO over-dramatically when giving their perspectives. In fact, this is the first time that I think the performance of audio book could actual change what a person was trying to say. My guess is the actor reading the female parts probably over emphasized words in sentences that could change what the person was trying to say.
If you can put these distractions aside, and are a big fan of ESPN, this is still worth the buy . The insight into the growth of a sports empire, and the insight into corporate boardroom, is worth the investment.
I loved hearing about the cast of characters and incredible twists of fate that created and sustained ESPN, complete with off-the-wall anecdotes and behind-the-scenes looks at so many people I've only known on-camera. The book has a very personal voice, as it consists mostly of material pulled from interviews the author conducted with everybody connected with ESPN over the years. The narration is uneven - ranging from Matt McCarthy's sturdy, archetypal SportsCenter anchor tone for the male voices that dominate the story to Joan Baker's ill-fitting, semi-cloying tone for the women - with some jarringly mispronounced names late in the book. Still, if you've watched a ton of ESPN over the years or you're interested in the business of sports/entertainment, this is a fun, thorough, and revelatory exploration of the company's history.
I thought this book told a very interesting story extremely well. It gives a certain level of insight that isn't available anyplace else. I also found the narration light and engaging with the changes in point of view which kept me listening even when the subject matter went off on a tangent. The story of the origins of ESPN were especially interesting along with the early days as the new kid on the block. I would recommend this book to all of my friends who love sports and like a good story.
the first 2 parts that dealt with the origin and establishment of ESPN were excellent. The insider view of the various complex negotiations regarding; venture capital, broadcasting rights, production, talent, etc, were fascinating. Part 3 was basically a pointless run down of every show idea ESPN put on the air. Part 4 seemed to be ESPN's chance to address (unchallenged) any negative situations that had arisen over the years and put thier spin on it. The female voice on this audiobook was terrible and made the women sound juvenile and naive.
I think the book was informative and painted some images I wouldn't have seen otherwise. I think the style of writing takes a bit of getting used to and the narrators are not as good as other books.
I grew up with ESPN, and so had high expectations for the book. And, truth be told, there's more than enough great material in this book to make it appealing to most ESPN fans. But the content is so poorly structured and the narration is so uneven that I've considered more than once just turning it off, never to listen again.
I appreciate that the book is more of an oral history than anything else, but even oral histories can be cohesive, with chapters that follow selected themes rather than meandering from topic to topic. The transitions are jarring at best, and it's almost as if this is a compilation of articles rather than a traditional book.
Two of the three readers are embarrassingly bad, especially Joan Baker, who provides the female voices. Everything comes out as breathy and overly dramatic -- ugh. In retrospect, I wish I had picked up the hardcopy.
I love reading/listening to books which present real points of view from the people who lived the events. However, there are two MAJOR issues with this audiobook.
The first is the editing of the actual book. There are almost no introductions to the change of topics! One minute it's women sideline reporters, then it's about the drama of sportscenter with Olberman and Patrcik with no warning. I had to listen to the book twice in most sections just because I thought I missed something, I didn't. There are times when quotes are just thrown in because the author didn't want to waste material. It made NO sense.
The second major issue is Joan Baker. This reader sucks. I am blind I've listened to more audiobooks than they have on audible. This is the second worst reader I've ever forced myself to endure. Her breathy, over empathetic and miss-timed voice representations make the women who were quoted in this book seem like...like....the producer should have said stop trying to be a oral porn star and read the f'n book.
Buy the written version if you can read print. If you can't, pray another version of this audiobook comes out soon. Otherwise try not choke on your own vomit when Joan gets to read (it's not personal, it's business) it really sucked.
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