Sex, Gambling, Corporate Intrigue Headline New ESPN Book 'Those Guys Have All the Fun'
Details from the ESPN history Those Guys Have All the Fun, the most buzzed-about nonfiction book of the summer, have begun leaking out, and they are as shocking as many anticipated.
The book by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller had been the subject of intense speculation inside and outside of the network for nearly a year. Sports website Deadspin even offered a $10,000 payment to anyone who got them an early copy. Publisher Little Brown had tried to embargo the book until the official publication May 24 (except for a sanctioned excerpt in GQ), but the intense interest and drip-drip of revelations caused them to lift the hold.
Led by Deadspin, news organizations have rushed to spill the contents. Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch tweeted, "ESPN PR just went to DEFCON 1."
-- In the early years, betting on games was rampant among both the on-air talent and the behind-the-scenes staff: "There was a lot of betting going on in the early days of ESPN. ... There are people there now in some pretty high places who ran the gambling operations back then."
-- A mailroom employee used a Getty corporate apartment in NYC (Getty was ESPN's first owner) so secretaries could turn tricks: "I remember [COO] Roger Werner coming in and saying, 'We gotta get rid of this apartment on 47th street' --which was a remnant from Getty -- 'because the mail boys got a couple of our secretaries hooking over there.' Hooking! That's what he said. I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'They're making money after work when no one's there. It's getting out of control.'"
-- Sex: "There was screwing in the hallway. Okay, maybe not in the hallways, but there were a couple of stairwell stories." And, "The receptionist ... was blowing FedEx delivery guys in the bathroom after work hours."
-- Sexual harassment was rampant. It ran the gamut from the relatively benign (turning the numerous TVs to the Playboy Channel and loudly narrating the sex scenes play-by-play style in front of female employees) to the intrusive (unwanted ogling and groping) to the disturbing (male employees coercing female employees into dates in exchange for coveted editing bay time).
-- The backstabbing: Keith Olbermann comes across as difficult; Chris Berman is a pompous jerk. "The No. 1 thing that surprised me about ESPN was how little team spirit there was for a place that said its business was sports."
The gossipy parts have swamped the interesting stories of ESPN's rise to cable giant: Like how Don Ohlmeyer turned a $2.5 million consulting contract into a 20% stake in the network. Or how Disney CEO Michael Eisner pulled the trigger on the acquisition of ESPN parent ABC/Cap Cities when he realized he could get 20% compounded fee raises from cable companies for ESPN if it had the NFL -- a move Eisner called "the most important thing done in broadcasting since Bill Paley stole all of NBC's stars."