Publisher offers no hints on contents of ESPN book

By Richard Sandomir

New York Times News Service

Published: Sunday, May 15 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

I want the full story — not only tantalizing tales of who hates whom — which has not yet been told in the few books about ESPN. The company would also like that story told and is relying on Miller's representations that the book will be responsible.

ESPN barred him from talking to people in Bristol during the first year of his research, then it relented. Miller said he felt they hoped he would give up. John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president for content, said, "Given his doggedness, the decision was made to let him come on campus for convenience's sake to talk to people, but we didn't tell anybody not to talk to him."

ESPN has not tried to quash the book, and Miller said some interviews on ESPN outlets had already been scheduled. Still, Miller said that some executives vowed that they would wrest an advance copy out of the 175,000 in the first printing.

''Nobody has said that to me," Skipper said. "As of today, nobody has seen it."

Deadspin, which offered a $10,000 bounty to get an early copy last week ("We did that semi-sarcastically," said A.J. Daulerio, the site's editor-in-chief), published a few smarmy paragraphs that had been cut from the book. Nicole Dewey, a spokeswoman for Little, Brown, said the desire of Deadspin and other outlets to read the book in advance "confirms for us that this is a story in demand."

Inevitably, the most straightforward history of ESPN will cause some queasiness in Bristol. Oral history, as Miller and Shales know from "Live From New York," their 2002 book about "Saturday Night Live," is about personalities, the stories they tell and the quotations chosen. People often say more than they plan to, and Miller said some anxious ESPN interviewees asked that some of their remarks be moved off the record. In some cases, he agreed, sacrificing easy headlines. In others, he refused.

''I can't presume the reactions to the book," Miller said. "Some people will feel they escaped the bullet. Some will feel it's unbelievably tough."

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