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ESPN the Uncensored History
July 31st. 2000

Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review

by Harvey Frommer

Harvey Frommer - Click to Enlarge          

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 shots.

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 underwater sport.    

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

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.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
*Autographed copies of Frommer books are available .

Other Frommer sports related articles can be found at:   

Harvey 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 in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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