the Uncensored History
July 31st. 2000
Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review
The letters ESPN are as much a part of the sports scene
today as NBA or NFL or NHL. Reaching 60 million homes through over 26,000
cable providers, ESPN is a media institution that is all things powerful
in the world of sports. And what began in 1978 as one man's pipe dream is
today ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic Sports, ESPNews and ESPN The Magazine.
ESPN: THE UNCENSORED HISTORY by Michael J. Freeman
(Taylor, 286 pages, $24.95) is a wide ranging and thoroughly researched
look at this sports and cultural phenomenon.
The letters stand for Entertainment and Sports
Programming Network. The letters also stand for the dream of Bill
Rasmussen, formerly a semi-pro hockey team's PR man. It was Rasmussen who
battled to create ESPN. Freeman goes into detail showing how Rasmussen
used funds from Getty Oil to jump start things and how at the start ESPN
nearly went broke and bust.
Freeman, a sportswriter for The New York Times, is
relentless in praising and panning this incredible success story. There
are accounts of how sportscaster Sal Marchiano, a bit on edge by the early
amateurism of the venture, quit in the middle of the night mouthing the
words: "Happiness is seeing Bristol (he was referring to the home
base of ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut) in your rear-view mirror."
There are accounts of how women have fought against
sexual discrimination and harassment at the network. In the early 1990s
about 75 women complained of being sexually harassed.
There are accounts of the massive drug use at ESPN in
the 1980s. Cocaine snorting in the newsrooms and sports gambling became
addictions that lead to dozens of employees seeking counseling help.
But there are also accounts of how John Walsh, once head
man at "Rolling Stones" magazine, re-booted ESPN, hired top
class reporters and made the network's image shine.
The sub-title of this very engaging and entertaining
book is "The Uncensored History." And that it is. We are there
as Freeman replays "combat stories" involving Chris Berman,
Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott and other high profile hot
Even the book's chapter titles make for interesting
reading: "Men Are Acting Like Animals," "The Mickey Mouser
Network," "Can We Cut Your Good-bye from 45 Seconds to 30?"
And my favorite - - "You Have to be a Son of a Bitch."
Once thought of as a practical joke, ESPN today is a
colossus in the world of sports and media. How it got that way, why it is
that way - makes for fascinating reading. This is one that definitely
belongs on your TodaysSports Book Shelf.
BOOKENDS: On the drawing board:
Set for November 2000 publication - BUMP AND RUN by Mike
Lupica from Putnam. Billed as an inside look at the vagaries of pro
football, the book will have a 100,000 first printing.
Set for September publication THE RED ROSE CREW by
Daniel J. Boyne (Hyperion) - the story of the first all-female crew team's
quest for the gold.
SCUBA DIVING: A TRAILSIDE GUIDE (Norton, 224 pages,
$18.95 is filled with photos, charts and tips all focused on the
# # #
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth
College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage
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