cover image The Early Days of ESPN: 300 Daydreams and Nightmares

The Early Days of ESPN: 300 Daydreams and Nightmares

Peter Fox. Lyons, $29.95 (168p) ISBN 978-1-4930-7957-5

Fox (Natural Golf), the founding executive producer of ESPN, offers a ragged chronicle of the TV station’s humble early days, from the time he joined in November 1978 through the first broadcast 10 months later. Fox takes an approach that lies somewhere between memoir and oral history, augmenting his own recollections with lengthy first-person passages from his colleagues. Emphasizing ESPN’s ragtag origins, Fox recounts companywide “fly breaks” to kill the many insects that drifted into the studio, which was still under construction when airing began. Production researcher Dave Sheppard recalls having to fly back from March Madness games to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., to deliver notes and photos because the network didn’t have the means to transmit the materials remotely. Elsewhere, Fox details the development of SportsCenter, which was first dreamed up by ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and son Scott while they were stuck in traffic, and dishes on office culture (staff hookups were apparently rampant). Unfortunately, the narrative sometimes devolves into score settling (“While it is unfair to diss a guy after he’s gone, Stu [Evey, the former chairperson of ESPN] earned it and he took his shots at me”) and the prose is often clunky (“Politics was my ugly”). Sports fanatics will appreciate the firsthand recollections of the channel’s origins, even as they wish for a more elegant presentation. Photos. (June)