Some Final Fun With “Those Guys Have All The Fun”

Justin June 28, 2011 1

The SCP book club was supposed to be a four part series. Surprisingly, though, the book clubbers all stepped up and finished reading ahead of schedule. It’s the exact opposite trend to what happened between editions 1 and 2. And so, The SCP Book Club’s discussion of “Those Guys Have All The Fun,” wraps up here with a study of chapters 6, 7 and 8, covering pages 455 through 745.

Read parts 1 and 2

JUSTIN-Senior Writer, SportsCracklePop

I had a feeling people would start reading faster once they reached the section of the book that covers the past few years. But I was actually pretty surprised when people started emailing me to say they were just about finished with the book.

ALEX-SCP commenter “Beltway Buddy”

I hit a stride for sure in this last section of reading. I learned around 500 pages ago what I should be speed reading at breakneck speed and what I’d like to pay attention to.

JOHN-Blogger, 200 Miles From The Citi

I would say I did sail through the end of the book.  I ended up finding the negotiations for the football rights and the information about how that relates to network primetime lineups pretty interesting.

KEVIN-SCP commenter “Scott Salley”

Once I got going in the book, I found it hard to put down.  I really enjoyed it – more than I thought I would.

CRAIG-reader, SportsCracklePop

Some of the end of the book was rough to get through.  A lot of the section about cell phones and technology was drier than my mothers pork chops.  It was hard to choke it down.

JUSTIN

I started to drag for a while towards the end. It became much more business-heavy as ESPN transitioned from network to global media monolith. But, luckily, Tony Kornheiser arrived to save the day. Of everyone who was interviewed in this book, I thought he was the only one who came off as honest without seeming self-serving. Just the unvarnished truth every time.

ALEX

The star of the book has to be Mr. Tony. His candor shined through. In a book full of self-promotion and self-importance by both the talent and management, Tony’s take on matters were a real breath of fresh air. As usual, he wasn’t afraid to point out his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as others.

JOHN

I certainly came away with more positive images of certain people who I never felt strongly about before, like Colin Cowherd…I thought everything he said was thoughtful and made a lot of sense.  I guess the guy I came away liking most was Dan Patrick.  I always liked him, and he came across pretty professionally overall in this book.  Outside of that weird mooning incident on the way back from the airport or wherever that was early on in the book, which proved to be an exception rather than a rule, Patrick was kind of who I hoped he’d be.

KEVIN

I thought that the women who have worked at ESPN were really painted in a positive light and come out looking like the heroes.  From overcoming the sexual harassment at the beginning, to the glowing praise for Beadle, to the extended description of the all woman Sportscenters – I really thought the authors went out of their way to make women look good.  At least to me – there wasn’t one unlikable female in the entire book, while there was a disgusting man on almost every other page.

CRAIG

The stars of the book are George Bodenheimer who sold ESPN to these cable operators for more and more fees when no one thought it possible,  Stu Evey for keeping Getty in the game as the company grew and continually lost money (also the stories about him are amazing,)  and Mark Shapiro for bringing ESPN into the 21st century with a few of the shows that helped solidify their programming like Around the Horn, PTI, etc.

ALEX

John Walsh, credited with giving ESPN it’s journalistic direction and legitimacy, seems to get more real estate in the book than anyone else. I have to give him the blue ribbon for that reason alone in a book of countless characters.

KEVIN

I think despite him being a massive jackhole, its pretty clear that ESPN owes a lot of their current popularity to Mark Shapiro.  He’s the one that really pointed the network into the direction it is going now, and probably deserves a ton of credit.  That doesn’t mean I’d want to work for the guy, but he clearly knew what he was doing.

JOHN

I think Mark Shapiro ends up being the most important figure in the book… a guy who seems like you either love or hate, and the people who love him are tremendously loyal to him, and the people who hate him still have some kind of respect for him. In the final chapters, those elements were cemented further. You had the guy from HBO Sports saying how competitive Shapiro was – if they were airing a documentary or feature one week, Shapiro would try to fast-track something on the same topic to steal some of the thunder.  David Stern talked about their relationship in a diplomatic way, but clearly they didn’t get along too well.  But consistently throughout the book there were people singing Shapiro’s praises…from his earliest beginnings at the network all the way to his run to the top.  When he left, 16 people went with him – that wasn’t surprising at all to me.  And by the time he left, to be completely honest, I was tired of him.

JUSTIN

Shapiro sounded like a dick. I tend to have problems with anyone who’s considered a “wunderkind.” A person with preternatural abilities in any one field is clearly not well developed in the rest of them. Plus, Fuck them for being so successful so young.

ALEX

The biggest villain is a tough award to give out. There’s so many a-holes and d-bags in the book. I was going to give the award out to Mike Tirico. Sexually harassing female employees, following them to their cars creepily and then ruining MNF by cock-blocking Tony Kornheiser and then awkwardly fawning over John Gruden seemed to cement the award for him. Then I read about ESPN’s 30th year (around 2009). They were coming off their best year in history, a record year for growth and profits. So how does ESPN President George Bodenheimer reward his employees? He suspends raises for Sr. level employees, lessons the pool for lower level employees’ raises and puts a hiring freeze on in the face of the largest recession this country has seen. Douche Bags (capital D, capital B) like Georgey boy are what give American executives bad names. How about sharing some of the success with the people who made it that way? How about taking away some of the fear of your employees in the face of one of the worse recessions this nation’s seen.

KEVIN

I think everyone associated with management looks like an enormous villan.  All the bosses or people in a leadership role are either painted as sexist, rude, or completely incompetent (or some combination of those things).  Some of these guys have to be reading this book and wondering why they agreed to participate in the first place.  I know management sucks everywhere – but its really over-the-top bad here.

CRAIG

To be honest there are a lot of people to dislike at ESPN.  The biggest villain for me is Bill Rasmussen.  He screwed his family out of a lot of money because of his ego.

JOHN

I never much liked Mike Tirico, and this book didn’t do much to improve his image with me.  Strangely, Bill Simmons, for whom not much love is lost in my opinion either, made the clearest argument against Tirico and how he interacted with Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football…I remember thinking many of those same things when I watched MNF with those guys.  But I just never cared for Tirico even dating back to when he was mostly doing golf – he always seemed pretty arrogant.  And speaking of arrogance, throw a ‘dislike’ towards anyone who toots their own horn too much in this book – one for most everyone – because that turned me off quite a bit.

KEVIN

I think if I hadn’t worked in the media, I would have disliked a lot of the people more, but I know that this is just how media people work.  They’re an egotistical bunch with very few skills that translate to the real world.  So I didn’t really dislike anyone – I just accepted that’s how they are. Although, with that said,  I wasn’t a huge Mike Tirico fan before, but I think even less of him after the book.  How he punted Kornheiser to the curb during MNF is just awful.  It’s a low class move from a supposed professional.  Even the weekend sports guys in the middle of nowhere USA have to laugh at the crappy jokes of the wacky weather guy, so Tirico should have known better.

CRAIG

I found myself really disliking Mike Tirico and Chris Berman.  Overall Tirico goes just above Berman for the sexual harassment and how he pushed Kornheiser out of the MNF broadcasts.  It was just wrong.

JUSTIN

Four guys came off really bad. Mike Tirico is unique among them because he is the only one who didn’t talk himself into trouble. Nothing he said was particularly offensive, but no one else, aside from management who has a vested interest in making him sound good, had a single positive comment about him. I though Berman painted himself as a massive ego maniac who honestly believes he is the sole reason for ESPN’s success. He doesn’t even notice that he’s barely a presence on the network anymore. Jim Grey only appeared 3 or 4 times, but each time he tried to paint himself as a one man journalistic wrecking crew who outclassed everyone else in the industry. As far as I could tell, though, all he did was get a scoop from Eric Dickerson in the 80′s then sell his soul to LeBron James in 2010. And he did both by schmoozing guys in a journalistically questionable way. Finally, there’s Simmons. He comes off as guy who’s let his talent go to his head at record pace and turned into an unmanageable employee.

ALEX

I actually came away liking the Sports Guy the most, which surprised me. As I mentioned before, I really started to detest Bill Simmons in ’04 and probably haven’t read a word of his too long after. Like Mr. Tony, his take was appreciated and reminded me why I used to like reading him. I feel like a ran into an old girl friend and I’m ready to give it another shot. We’re going to have to take things slowly, and the Bruins winning the Cup doesn’t help, but as long as he doesn’t insult my friend’s brother again, I think we can be friends.

JOHN

I’ll tell you who I changed my opinion on the most – Gary Bettman.  I always thought the NHL was the victim in the ESPN/NHL TV contract…but Steve Levy gave a great explanation (granted, from ESPN’s side, but still well-said) of that whole situation, and it doesn’t paint Bettman in a great light.  Even Bettman, when he speaks for himself, doesn’t come across tremendously likable.

ALEX

It’s sad to say, but my view of Chris Berman is tarnished forever. It’s kinda like the first time I saw Hulk Hogan on his reality show a few years ago and realized he was a crazy show dad. I can never look at him the same. Chris Berman, welcome to the crazy club.

CRAIG

This book just reaffirmed my dislike for Chris Berman.  NFL Primetime was not that good to begin with, so when it disappeared I couldn’t have cared less. But you would have thought they had given 60 minutes a donkey punch while beating up Walter Cronkite. He was the worst part about that friggin’ show!!!!!!!!!!

An entity like ESPN means different things to different people. As the narrative of the book advanced into the more immediate past, the reading experience changed a bit, from learning about events you may not remember to shedding new light on things that are still fresh in your mind.

KEVIN

Its clear the authors of the book do not read ESPN The Magazine, because they spent a huge amount of time talking about that piece of crap.  I get it free with the Insider subscription, and it is really awful.  When I was a kid my Dad got me Sports Illustrated and it came with the “sneaker phone” that always made the other person sound like they were talking to you through a megaphone, but that phone is still WAY better of a free gift than this magazine.  So I really could have done without the extended description of how the magazine came to be and how the editing process works, because I’m guessing that 90% of the people who get that magazine don’t actually subscribe to it – its forced upon them like it is to me.

CRAIG

Too much coverage of the ESPY’s. Who cares about awards shows?

JOHN

Maybe it’s just me, but I would have liked more on a couple of my favorite ESPN shows of the past five years or so – the “2 Minute Drill” game show, and “Stump The Schwab”.  “2 Minute Drill” was mentioned maybe once, and “Stump The Schwab” got a single paragraph.  I would have liked to have known more about them, how they developed questions, why they’re not on anymore.

CRAIG

Since they spent so much time on Sports Century I thought a little more time on 30 for 30 would have been warranted.  Those are some fascinating documentaries.

JUSTIN

I like Michelle Beadle. I think she’s funny, smart and well informed. I also like the fact that she’s attractive without flaunting it. But I don’t know why they painted her hiring at ESPN into a major moment in the network’s history. If she’s so important, why is she stuck as co-host of a 5pm show on ESPN2 that nobody has ever seen?

ALEX

I wondered if the events of the past few years that were over-hyped were done so to sell more books to people like me who have short memories and remember more of the shenanigans that lived in the 24-hour news cycle ESPN helped to create. I have an incredibly poor memory (thanks University of Maryland!). If it wasn’t written about, I don’t remember it.

JUSTIN

They don’t teach “memory” at college.

JOHN

Steve Berthiaume (hey! he’s married to Cindy Brunson – had no idea about that) says towards the end of the book that a lot of the people who work at ESPN are “social oddballs” and where would they find gainful employment but at ESPN, where they thrive and succeed?  But I think you can say that about so many different work places….especially TV stations.  So my big takeaway may just be that sure, ESPN is a place where you may get to live and breathe sports at work…but in many ways it’s just like your office.

CRAIG

Business is messy and no matter what when you deal in entertainment the people behind the scenes never get the credit they deserve.

JOHN

Perhaps it was done but they got nothing worthwhile so they trashed the interviews, but what about an interview with casual personnel…PAs, or more interestingly – cafeteria workers?  Bob Ley mentioned the “Car Wash” guests go through – that involved lunch in the cafeteria…if that was such a central location, maybe talk to someone there, right in the heart of the complex, and get a different viewpoint about what was going on.  Again, maybe it would have given you nothing, but that was something that crossed my mind.

KEVIN

The ultimate lesson is:  I can’t believe my Dad or someone in that age range didn’t think of creating a 24 hour sports network.  It seems like the simplest of all ideas – yet no one had created such a thing until they came along.  We’d all be billionaires.

ALEX

If you have a good idea, be careful who you bring it to. It’s amazing to think that a son and his father dreamt this network up during a road trip in a weekend. This multi-billion idea was taken out of their hands because they couldn’t find the right partner.

Book clubs are a relatively common trend, though they tend to involve women. And Oprah. And cups of tea. It’s not the type of thing any of the readers had spent much time considering before this exercise began. But, it’s an idea who’s time may have come.

KEVIN

I really did enjoy it, and I would totally do it again.

CRAIG

This was a very good experience I would do it again.  It made you think about the book a little differently.  I haven’t had to think about a book like this since college.

ALEX

I enjoyed my time in the panel. It was actually fun to talk about a book I thoroughly enjoyed with other people. Maybe next time Justin could pick out a book a quarter of the length though. I feel like football season is over and I’m getting my free time back. I’m a slow reader. Piss off.

JUSTIN

Leading a book club is hard. The questions got progressively more obtuse as the weeks went by. Part of this was because there were larger issues to be discussed. But the main reason was that I read ahead and then couldn’t remember what was covered in the sections we were actually discussing. And even though I’m proud of the way the discussions mirror the book formaticly, it turns out, it was kind of a pain in the ass to write that way. Hopefully the next book we select isn’t written in iambic pentameter or something else “creative.”

Final thoughts?

JOHN

I thought the last page and a half summary by the authors was very well-written and a nice summary.  There were times I wasn’t crazy about what they wrote in italics and wanted to get back to the interviews…but that was well done.

noted

KEVIN

Congrats to me on finishing a 700+ page book.

JUSTIN

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. But I did have some issues with how it was laid out. At some moments, it seemed like a topic was being wrapped up, then the authors threw in someone’s comment that was tangentially related but, instead of closing out a line of conversation,  it just sort of hung there like an unfinished sentence.

ALEX

I couldn’t get out of this book review without mentioning how happy I was that Sean Salisbury and Stephen A. Smith didn’t have their contracts renewed. They were complete Ass Hats that were horrible on TV and poisoned the airwaves. I was happy to remember I never have to see them on the World Wide Leader any more. That was one of the more joyous parts of the book for me, reading about their demise.

Chapters 6,7 and 8 of “Those Guys Have All The Fun”, the third and final step in SportsCracklePop’s effort to cover the biggest sports book of the year. Anyone who would like to suggest the next book or take part in the next discussion  is welcome to add their voices to the comments section or send an email to justin@sportscracklepop.com.

 

 

One Comment »

  1. Douchemcgee June 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm -

    Did Justin promote himself to ‘Senior Writer’? That’s all I got out of this article. That and an excellent one liner from Justin, ‘they don’t teach ‘memory’ in school.’ Maybe you earned the Senior Writer title but I’m intrigued with who bestoyed that honor onto you.

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