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
Was expecting much more from this book. Seemed like the author couldn't get off his knees from servicing the ego maniacs at ESPN to tell a better behind the scenes story. Audio folks are horrible at pronouncing names.
Liked it and recommend it. The early years were populated by a lot of "voices" that were sometimes difficult to keep track of, but the authors covered everything pretty well and (overall) it held my interest. I certainly feel more "educated" about ESPN. Thank you for that.
While the behind the curtain story was great, the fact that they couldn't correctly pronounce real people's names and had factual flubs (South Africa to South America in the same sentence, billions to millions) made it annoying to listen to. Choosing the subtle to narrate the interstitial parts was even more awkward, he sounded like he was in such a rush to get out of the booth that he tripped over words on his way out the door
I liked getting the inside scoop on all of the prominent ESPN personalities from behind the scenes. You get to see the human and flawed side of these people that put on the polished act in front of the screen.
I have not read many books related to sports, so I don't have a good comparison. Most of the text consisted of first person quoted accounts as opposed to a third person narrative. Felt more like an in depth conversation at cocktail party.
I have not listed to these narrators before. I liked the fact that they had a man and a woman to do the voices depending on who was being quoted in the book.
The book did not have a crescendo that moved me in particular. I am a big ESPN fan and sports fan in general, so I was interested in the historical evolution of the station that paralleled the evolution of sports in general.
If you are a sports fan, you will love this book. It brought back many sports memories through the eyes of ESPN.
There was a lot of name dropping of ESPN behind the scenes executives. It was a little hard to keep up with all of them and what their role was in the organization.
The fact that the sports backdrop was always woven into the anecdotes helped to keep the book entertaining.
Interesting story about the meteoric rise of ESPN from the early, concept/entrepreneurial days to its current status as a behemoth in the entertainment industry. Reveals a lot of the "unique" culture behind the company.
Atrocious narration, though. I've never written a review but this caused me to do so. I presume reading the book would be significantly better and I recognize the difficulty in narrating a book that is largely made up of quotations. However each of these narrators was awful. Their inflection on many of the quotes was clearly incorrect from how the primary speaker had intended. These small shifts are not only annoying to listen to, they can actually change how we perceive someone's entire opinion in certain situations. With so many different personalities I recognize that it would be impossible to get them to each narrate their own quotes, but we could at least have narrators that put some time and thought into what the original speaker might be saying before they record their lines.
An editor would have been helpful. As it was, it was an endless and seemingly random stream of quotes from various participants in ESPN's rise to glory.
It was as if the authors emailed everyone who ever worked at ESPN, gathered the responses, and cut-and-pasted everything into a giant tome -- no real insights, not much of interest, and no flow.
One of the narrators was decent, although it was challenging because so many of the voices of the players in the book are so familiar. The narrator who read the few, brief connecting pieces (the blurbs between the stream of quotes) sounded as if he were put off to have to read his parts. The woman's role was so over-the-top, "Well, golly!" that it subconsciously made all the female characters sound like ditzes.
I did learn more about the rise of ESPN, but ultimately, I guess, to what end?
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.
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