ESPN: The Uncensored History

ESPN: The Uncensored

History

by Michael Freeman

Taylor, 286 pp., $24.95

Is ESPN: The Uncensored History the first critical analysis of the popular sports network -- as its publisher claims -- or is it the work of a rebuffed job-seeker who may have an axe to grind?

Yes.

New York Times sports reporter Michael Freeman chronicles in interesting detail the network's humble beginnings in 1979, along with its rise to eventually reach more than 60 million households. Rampant sexual harassment at the male-dominated network also earns a large portion of Freeman's attention, as do other alleged incidents of gambling, cocaine use, and unhealthy workloads at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

Recently, ESPN anchor Dan Patrick used his radio program as a forum to rail against the book, citing numerous inaccuracies. Patrick added that Freeman once had sought an on-camera job at ESPN but was not offered employment (a fact Freeman confirms in the book acknowledgments).

"[ESPN is] 20 years old, we make mistakes, and we do not deny that [but] this is not a true representation of where I work," said Patrick, who isn't himself ripped in the book. "This guy was taking any angle he could to get something juicy. A lot of innocent people [are] raked over the coals in this book [by] former employees."

Indeed, the imprint of Keith Olbermann -- Patrick's former SportsCenter mate who departed the network in 1997, publicly railing against ESPN executive editor John Walsh -- is strong throughout, while the network's reigning luminary, Chris Berman, merits only a few pages.

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