Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DAN PATRICK AND I USED TO HAVE FART WARS UPSTAIRS. WE'D TYPE IN OUR LITTLE CUBICLES, THEN GO DOWN TO THE NEWSROOM AND DO BATTLE... I WAS MORE ABOUT SOUND; HE WAS MORE ABOUT FURY:  That's from ESPN anchor Gary Miller as part of Those Guys Have All The Fun, the new oral history of the network by Shales and Miller that I believe many of us have been reading of late. Noel Murray notes, however, and I tend to agree:
Reading Those Guys Have All The Fun reminded me how much I used to enjoy ESPN, and how much the network has contributed—positively—to the coverage of sports on television. But it also reminded me of how much more entertaining ESPN was when it was catering to its dozen or so weird niches by showing logging competitions at 3 a.m. instead of yet another SportsCenter repeat. In those early days, the staff was making up the rules on the fly.... For the first 15 or so years, right through that early-’90s peak, ESPN had an infectious fannish side that made the whole world of sports seem more fun. These days, perhaps driven by that overabundance of bosses, the network is making sports seem too much like a day at the office.
Added:  Someone may be buying the film rights.


  1. I actually just started the book, which seems like needs an extensive section on "Keith Olbermann is incredibly talented, but he's a dick."

  2. I was sort of unimpressed. Some interesting sections, to be sure, but too much filler.

  3. Duvall11:20 AM

    <span>I actually just started the book, which seems like needs an extensive section on "Keith Olbermann is incredibly talented, but he's a dick."</span>

    Is that really necessary?  Couldn't they just refer readers to the last twenty years of cable television?

  4. The Pathetic Earthling11:48 AM

    Alas, the book was not called "You're With Me, Leather."?

    That said, yes.  I first was drawn to ESPN during its Australian Rules Football days and will still drop what I'm doing to watch a good timber sports competition.

  5. I just read the quote that you used as your header last night.  I am enjoying the book, but I will agree with the too much filler.  Also, maybe it is because I'm reading it on the Nook, but a lot of times I find myself forgetting who the people are that are doing the talking and I think it is taking away from it.  If there was a page with just the names and their titles, it would be superhelpful.

  6. Jordan1:04 PM

    Haven't picked it up yet (though I certainly will), but the line about a day at the office seems dead on.  Just look at the SportsCenter commercials. Now they're all a lame joke centered on Hey Look! We've got athletes in the office!  Nothing touches on the fun or the sheer absurdity of Charlie Steiner's Y2K compliance one (Follow me! Follow me to freedom!)

  7. Jenn C.2:50 PM

    I think I liked the Keith O/Dan Patrick book from 1997 a lot better.  It was funny, told some good inside stories without being tedious/boring, and brought in more sports-related anecdotes. 

  8. Benner3:10 PM

    The book couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a business case study (the most interesting aspects, as it turned out), a tabloid, or a cultural critique.  I think it did a good job of presenting competing accounts and of presenting the good with the bad, like the culture of sexual harassment and the tendency to push those sports in the news broadcasts that happen to be ESPN's broadcast partners. It's strangely comforting that most of what I hate about ESPN is all Mark Shapiro's fault, and he left the network to go work for Dan Snyder, which is surely karmic retribution. 

    In the early days, they knew they'd build a larger audience by focusing on more sports instead of just the most popular ones, but having achieved market dominance and being part of Disney instead of Getty Oil, they are increasingly focused on short term ratings. Still, the sports audience would evidency rather tune into televisted sports radio than Aussie Rules Football, and that's an indictment of America. 

    Long term, is Fox's business model better?  They have the broadcast rights to big-ticket sports like Sunday football and Saturday baseball, as well as the BCS, and regional and niche sports channels?  What is the upside of having one brand across multiple platforms, if that brand is increasingly associated with deteriorating quality, both in terms of substance, production values, and the continued employment of Chris Berman? 

    Once you've got the yellow blazers, you don't get rid of them. 

  9. J. Bowman9:34 PM

    I haven't read the book, but I do need to express the feeling that, as much as ESPN helped to build my love of sports over the latter half of the 90s, they've done just as much (and really, not just them, but sports-centered programming in general) to deteriorate my enjoyment of sports over the last decade.
    They have the same basic problem that 24-hour news channels do: most days don't actually have 24 hours' worth of happenings, let alone 24 hours' worth of 3 networks and a ginormous website. So instead we're inundated with fluff and blather and "analysis" which isn't. Yesterday one of the networks was on while I was waiting for a haircut and they were advertising "Herm Edwards's Advice to the NFL Rookie Class." Who needs to see that other than NFL Rookies? For that matter, why should they give a shit?
    I like watching sports. I like talking about sports. But it has occurred to me that watching other people talk about sports is not a productive use of time, and I feel like that's what's getting pushed on me, to the point I don't want to watch the games anymore.

  10. Just watch games.  And PTI.
    That's really where ESPN ends for me today.  I grew up with ESPN in the late 80s and 90s and Sportscenter was my religious "before school" TV show.  I loved their NFL gameday show and especially NFL Primetime for highlights of all the games on Sundays.  But pretty much every studio show they produce now is bloated and uninteresting at best, or insufferable and self congratulatory/self referential at worst.
    So I just ignore them unless they're airing a game I want to see.