Most helpful critical review
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A must-read for sports junkies, but...
on December 29, 2000
As a former member of the sports industry and a recovering SportsCenteraholic, I am very glad I read this book. Anybody who enjoys ESPN will find this book interesting. That said, it is not a masterpiece, and I found myself wanting "something more". I wanted to know what happened to all of the characters, especially the anchors, reporters and founding team. In essence, I wanted to know WHERE ARE THEY NOW? This could have been handled in an appendix, and would have made this more of a reference book than a gossip book.
To me, the best theme is the evolution of Sportscenter from a highlight show to a must-see event. In the mid-to-late 80's, I thought CNN had surpassed SportsCenter, with better stories, better anchors, and better sets, as well as a partner network in CNN Headline News. John Walsh's iron will reversed that trend, and some of the best CNN personnel (Dan Patrick, Gary Miller, etc.) defected to ESPN. Subtly, over the years ESPN became a credible journalistic organization with multiple networks, and SportsCenter left CNN in the dust.
The pre-1978 Bill Rasmussen story moves slowly, and I don't think I have a full understanding of the important events leading to September 7, 1979. I would like to have had clearer information about how Rasmussen expected to pay for his vision, and why his son (theoretically the least experienced of the principals) was sent out to look for money. What kind of deals did they offer investors before Getty came in and took 85%? How soon did they expect profitability? Did they have a backup plan? I think the author wanted this to be perceived as a business book instead of a gossip book. It fails on that count, in my opinion, because the author does not seem to have a business background. The book doesn't have to be all things to all people, but those expecting deep insight into business decision-making will not find it here.
As for the gossip (which I love as much as anybody), most of the first 100 pages refer to unnamed anchors, production assistants and managers. Without names, the story is not compelling. The book picks up steam as it goes along, primarily because Keith Olbermann agreed to be an on-the-record (and angry) source. ESPN refused to cooperate with the author, so we get a lot of one-sided attacks. That may be why there is so much focus on sexual harassment and the abuse of PA's. These themes weaken the book. Certainly those topics deserved coverage, and they are compelling, but they are repeated over and over and over again.
Don't let these weaknesses scare you off. ESPN: The Uncensored History is well worth reading!