Those Guys Have All the Fun by James Andrew Miller & Tom Shales

The thing I appreciated about this book the most was how it came into my possession. Several years ago (pre-COVID), I went to an estate sale in my parents’ neighborhood. From what I could tell, the person for whom the estate sale was held was a retired military guy, very into sports and “dad” books, with great taste in music. He had lots of interesting books and music CDs, and I bought this book, an old Yardbirds live recording, and a random tool. Sometimes estate sales seem gross to me – walking around I feel like a vulture picking at something without dignity. Personally, I like to go and just kind of think about my life, and what I keep, and what I’ll leave, and to sort of pay respects to whomever’s life I’m entering. So I think about this unknown guy every time I see this book on the shelf or listen to my Yardbirds album. (By the way, I’m not picking on people who attend estate sales to get deals or help a family out or anything like that. I’m speaking about my own feelings.) I’m fond of this book more than I would otherwise be.

Those Guys Have All the Fun is written by the same guys who wrote Live from New York, the very fun oral history of Saturday Night Live! So going in I knew it would be a quality project. And this is, it’s just not as interesting to me because I’m not quite at the age where I remember early ESPN, let alone its genesis as a sketchy project in the middle nowhere broadcasting reruns of regional games.

I am, however, a fan of a lot (but certainly not all, blech) sports media, so it was interesting to read all of these factoids and interviews, and think about how quickly sports reporting and journalism has changed – from local/regional beat writers, to national radio and television, to the proliferation of the web and “new media” (which involves a lot of athlete-featuring media). And really all of that coexisting within two or three decades. Wild.

This book is recent enough to feature the launch of ESPN.com, ESPN: The Magazine, and the disastrous ESPN phone (do y’all remember this!?). However, a lot of the people considered to be long-time players at ESPN aren’t yet big enough to be in this book. Plenty of people who are mentioned a lot (Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, Bill Simmons, Erin Andrews) have moved on to do their own things. Others have passed away, or moved on to other networks.

I wouldn’t really recommend this book to anyone except people who loved ESPN in the 1980s-1990s. Things have moved on so much that there’s not a lot of interest otherwise.

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