One of the biggest sports stories of the summer was the release of the best seller “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” more commonly known as The ESPN Book. Jim Miller’s book was met with near-universal acclaim (read our review here and our podcast with Jim here), so it was no surprise that a deal was reached this week to turn the blockbuster book into a blockbuster movie. Of course, there’s only one small problem with “Those Guys” translating to the silver screen… it’s 745 pages long! The book is so chalk full of stories and details it could fill an entire trilogy, let alone a single movie.
So, unless The ESPN Book: The Movie is going to be some Gone With The Wind style epic, the movie’s plot is going to have to focus on one main character from the book. After all, there’s only so much you can fit into a two hour movie while maintaining your “dramatic license.” But, there are so many interesting and pivotal characters in the book that the potential movie could go in many different directions. And while it’s fun to think about the possible casting of the movie (like our friends at SportsGrid have done very well already), let’s take a look at five very different movies that could actually be made from “Those Guys.”
(1) ESPN: The Beginning
Movie Doppelganger: The Social Network
The first potential movie is predictably the easiest, focusing on ESPN’s beginnings. The plot line would resemble The Social Network to examine how an empire was built from humble/dumpy Bristol, CT. The main characters would obviously be ESPN’s co-founders, Bill and Scott Rasmussen. One, a failed employee of the then New England Whalers and another, the bumbling son who’s along for the ride until he’s forced out of the company he founded.
The other main character would be Stu Evey from Getty Oil, a larger-than-life figure in the book who represents the financial investment that got ESPN off the ground… not to mention the source of some of the wilder anecdotes from the book. The movie could crescendo as ESPN slowly becomes legitimate throughout the 80’s while taking plenty of time to detail the sex and drugs that weren’t as big a part of the book as first thought. I’d love to see this movie made just for the ability to dramatize the struggle of building the “leader” from scratch.
(2) The Big Show: The Movie
Movie Doppelganger: Wedding Crashers (or any other buddy comedy, really)
Undoubtedly one of the easier choices for a main storyline to the ESPN Movie would be following the rise and fall of The Big Show and its stars, Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick. This movie would focus on ESPN’s rise from legitimacy to national phenom while charting the growth of SportsCenter throughout the 90’s. And while all of our other ESPN favorites will be there in the background (Berman, Ley, Steiner, Scott, Vitale, etc.), the main focus would be on the Olbermann/Patrick duo, who took SportsCenter to new heights as a mainstream cultural hit.
Of course, the movie wouldn’t be all fun and slapstick from the two buddies. We could also see the troubled relationship between Olbermann and those around him and how ESPN struggled with its newfound power and influence. This particular movie could end with the sad stories of first Olbermann’s departure, followed by Patrick’s a few years later. A perfect blend of knee-slapping humor and tear-jerking sadness! While Wedding Crashers isn’t an exact parallel, any buddy comedy with a hint of real-life drama would suffice as a template.
(3) ESPN: The Evil Empire
Movie Doppelganger: Wall Street
This potential storyline is probably one of the least likely, but could provide for the most explosive movie that would resonate with the younger crowd. This angle would focus on ESPN at the turn of the century as the WWL transitioned from national phenom to evil empire. The main character would be the young firebrand executive Mark Shapiro. Viewers could chart his rise from production assistant for Jim Rome to head of programming for the entire network. Along the way, Shapiro would alienate nearly everyone around him before burning out and leaving the company for Six Flags, crashing and burning like the characters in Wall Street.
Meanwhile, we could still chart the comings and goings of our favorite personalities while highlighting ESPN’s ever-growing self-indulgance. From The ESPY’s to ESPN Original Entertainment, this movie could potentially leave more egg on the face than any other. This particular version could even take us up to scandals involving Steve Phillips, Sean Salisbury, and Erin Andrews while perhaps ending with the worst thing ESPN has ever done, The Decision.
(4) The Cinderella Story
Movie Doppelganger: Citizen Kane (maybe?)
Undoubtedly, this movie would be the hardest to sell to the masses because it follows the story of current ESPN president George Bodenheimer. Surely 90% of sports fans wouldn’t recognize Bodenheimer if he walked into their living room, even though he runs the most powerful entity in the sports media. But, his rags to riches story was undoubtedly one of the highlights of “Those Guys.” Bodenheimer, a Denison University graduate, literally started out from the ESPN mailroom before working his way up the corporate ladder. Along the way, Bodenheimer became a driver for the company, learning from everyone he came in contact with at the growing ESPN. Bodenheimer was also a critical figure in ESPN’s rise by securing a dual revenue stream for the company.
Since 1998, the unassuming Bodenheimer has been ESPN’s president. And his amazing story is certainly worthy of being told. But, the problem with Bodenheimer as a central character is his unassuming character. Even if dramatic license were taken, it’s hard to envision Bodenheimer as the central character for a compelling two hour movie, even if it would be a nicer, more All-American version of Citizen Kane. On the other hand….
(5) The Sports Guy Movie
Movie Doppelganger: Invincible
The ultimate ESPN movie slam dunk…The Sports Guy. Somehow, Bill Simmons went from bartender, to internet nobody, to the most influential personality at the WWL. As viewers are along for the ride with the growth of The Sports Guy, ESPN’s growth is almost a perfect parallel. You can even visualize the sappy scenes where ESPN is on TV at the bar where Simmons works as a tie-in between the two. It’s a perfect doppelganger to the Disney flick “Invincible” about a bartender-turned-football player for the Philadelphia Eagles.
While building an entire movie around The Sports Guy might seem far-fetched at first, there’s no doubt Simmons has become an internet god worthy of his own biopic. Simmons’s rise can even be contrasted with the stale nature of tired acts at ESPN like Chris Berman and Dick Vitale. The movie could even end with Simmons on top of the ESPN heap with the success of 30 for 30 and Grantland. Maybe as a climax he can even ultimately conquer Rick Reilly in a final battle to the internet scribe death… or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking…
Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts about a potential “Those Guys” movie. Who should the main character be? Who would be perfect for the cast of the movie? Would you actually be interested in The ESPN Book: The Movie?