Here at the SportsGrid HQ, we’re anxiously awaiting our review copy of Those Guys Have All The Fun, the ESPN tell-all penned by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. We already know about a few of the stories within the book’s closely-guarded pages: Keith Olbermann was a terror, there was boinking in the hallways, and late 80’s ESPN was an apparent hotbed for sexual harassment.
But the common thread with all of those nuggets is that they occurred in the past and involved people who aren’t with ESPN anymore. Olbermann, for instance, is portrayed as a super-talented-but-impossible-to-work-with jerk by people he last worked with over 10 years ago. It’s a little embarrassing, sure, but in the long run it doesn’t really affect him or the company, because he’s not there and hasn’t been since 1997. He doesn’t have to see these people, and they don’t have to see him.
The potentially harmful thing to ESPN, corporate behemoth, is the possibility that embarrassing things will be said about people who work there now by other people who work there now. It’s not something that the book’s authors are going for – from the beginning, Miller has said he merely wanted to tell a very important media story. But, like any good media story, part of telling the oral history of ESPN will include documenting some instances of shit-talking.
Yesterday on his FOX Sports radio show, Dan Patrick, a famous alumnus of Bristol, shared his thoughts on the upcoming tell-all. He didn’t foresee anything nearly as sordid as the revelations about Mike Tirico in the 2000 ESPN book penned by Mike Freeman. But he predicted backstabbing amongst current and former ESPN staffers.
“[People] ratted on one another. That was really what was sad. People just turned and fired. It was ‘ready, fire, aim.’ And people just turned and stabbed everybody. That’s what I found out, which is really disheartening.
“It’s people who are still there, who work with some of the people they stabbed in the back. That’s the real sad part.
“You build friendships. It’s a great place. But there are people there who are conniving, backstabbing and jealous. I’m talking about talent to management. And that’s what’s sad, because it should come to this. And it will. There’ll be bloodshed, it’ll be ugly. It’ll be embarrassing.
In Miller and Shales’ last oral history, Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, most of the ill will between current staffers was of the below-the-surface variety: a snippy comment here, something passive-aggressive there. A lot of the noteworthy conflicts outlined in that book involved former cast members, mainly Chevy Chase. One particularly ugly incident between Chase and Bill Murray ended with Murray imploring Chase to “fuck your wife every once in awhile.”
If the ESPN book follows the SNL book’s lead in that regard, and most of the bad stuff is some combination of former-colleague-on-current-staffer, then the ESPN HR department won’t have as big of a headache. If Chris Berman is portrayed as not-so-nice of a guy by someone who now works at Reuters? All good. But, if there are shots fired by one current staffer at another? If, for instance, someone who currently works in Bristol has something potentially embarrassing to share about another? As Dan Patrick said, there’ll be bloodshed.