“SportsCenter,” ESPN’s popular highlights show, is introduced by theme music that ends with six staccato notes: “dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah.” When some genius tried to replace the theme a few years ago, the switchboard ignited. “How dare you!” was a common complaint. One mother said of the new music: “My son can’t fall asleep to that! He needs dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah!”
That’s how thoroughly ESPN has soaked through American culture. Fans in every stadium hold up signs saying “SportsCenter is Next!” Shows such as “College GameDay” and “Monday Night Football” are must-see viewing for millions. President Obama fills out his college basketball bracketwatched by cameras from a media powerhouse that airs 70,000 hours of programming a year on eight different networks. About $4 of your monthly cable bill goes to ESPN, even if you never watch it.
So yes, ESPN is a big deal, and it is worth a big book. But this big? World War II might be worth 763 pages. The secret of life? Definitely. But this is a cable TV channel, for goodness sake, devoted entirely to sports. As former host Max Kellerman candidly admits, “The fact is, it’s a trivial subject.” Not only that, the authors of “Those Guys Have All the Fun” (James Andrew Miller is a journalist and TV producer, Tom Shales is a former TV critic for The Washington Post) have bloated the text with obvious and repetitive observations. On Page 607, football analyst Mike Tirico intones, “People come to the game for the game itself.” Sixty-nine pages later he says, “But to me, you come to the football game for the football game.”Really?