Why The ESPN Book Is The Most Closely Guarded Secret In Publishing

Old ESPN Meets New ESPN

[credit provider=”Depauw University ” url=”http://www.depauw.edu/photos/PhotoDB_Repository/2009/10/custom/Bill%20Rasmussen%20ESPN%20Set-330×221.jpg”]

On May 24th, Little, Brown & Co. will publish “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” a 770-page oral history of the network that has more than a few current and former employees nervous.Anticipation for the book is through the roof, in part because the publisher has not allowed any copies to be distributed in advance.

Magazines that hoped to publish excepts had to sign non-disclosure agreements and were only allowed to read the manuscript in the publisher’s office.

Read about GQ’s first excerpt here >

Even co-author James Andrew Miller was only allowed one copy and told the New York Times, that he was not even able get an extra for his own mother.

So why all secrecy? Miller and co-author Tom Shales – who also wrote the warts-and-all history of Saturday Night Live – conducted over 560 interviews of current and former employees, many of whom were not afraid to spill the dirt about their colleagues and, occasionally, themselves.

There are tales of sexual indiscretion, drugs, jealously between co-workers, fights between executives and talent, but Miller says he’s also proud of the actual business stories that provide genuine insight into how a tiny station in Bristol, Connecticut, became a force that’s more powerful than the leagues it covers.

(The Bristol location was actually a key to both ESPN’s success [cheap expenses] and its wildness [bored, isolated people with lots of free time.])

All the tales of secrecy don’t hurt marketing either. Of course, Deadspin managed to get a highly-redacted (and highly-filthy) story that was allegedly cut from the book. Several people who were interviewed by Miller and Shales called asked to have some of their words taken back.

With one week to go, no one really knows what made the cut and what didn’t, but expect the rest of this week to be a game of cat and mouse as sites compete for leaks, authorised and unauthorised excerpts, until eventually … the real deal comes out.