ESPN May be Heading to the Big League: A Hollywood Film

| by Michael Allen

In 1976, Sidney Lumet's brilliant film "Network" was a scathing indictment of TV network news, fueled by an insatiable desire for ratings and money. A few years later, off screen, a little regional sports network called ESPN began on shoe leather and charisma in Connecticut, and slowly grew into a multi-million dollar empire. reports that the humble and wacky beginnings of ESPN may be headed for the silver screen.

ESPN began with a lineup that included Australian Rules Football, rodeo, and a rinky-dinky clip show called Sports Center. Today, the cable network stretches far beyond television into radio, magazines, mobile phones, the Internet, video games and more. ESPN's personalities have become global superstars and rival sports icons.

The rivalries, vices and abundance of secrets that were byproducts of ESPN’s rapid rise were recently detailed in the tell-all book, "Those Guys Have All The Fun," written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales.  

In "Those Guys Have All The Fun," voices of past and present ESPN personalities and producers told the story of how a father and son maxed out their credit cards to scrape together the cash to reserve a satellite transponder so they could show sporting events nonstop on a 24-hour station.

The book is a gossipy journey about how that venture turned from a late 1970s joke to a dominant brand in the sporting world and, arguably, the most profitable cable network ever created.

Chris Berman, Robin Roberts, Keith Olbermann, Hannah Storm, Bill Simmons, Tony Kornheiser, Stuart Scott, Erin Andrews, Mike Ditka, Bob Knight, and scores of others spoke openly about the games, shows, scandals, gambling addictions, bitter rivalries, and sudden suspensions that make up the network's soaring and stormy history. The result was a wild, smart, effervescent story of triumph, genius and ego.

Now, those backstage stories, exposed in print, may come to light on the big screen, too. 20th Century Fox is reportedly closing in on a deal to option the film rights of the book.  If successful, the film would be produced by Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti and Julie Yorn.

De Luca and Brunetti may be the ideal producers for this tell-all as they were two of the producers of last year's Facebook movie, "The Social Network." Alongside Scott Rudin, Relativity Media and Columbia Pictures, they presented the story of the drama behind a seven year old website. This time around they will have ESPN’s 32-year-history to portray.

One can only imagine who might play Keith Olbermann, but Ben Affleck did a decent impression of the controversial anchor on "Saturday Night Live" a few years ago.