Three of the books I’ve read lately are about sport’s relationship with the media, and in particular TV. All very good, the best of them might be Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards, an account of snooker’s unlikely rise to national prominence and the years of internal strife that followed, written by veteran snooker journalist and commentator Clive Everton.
It’s highly readable and there are plenty of revelations, including how Everton himself blew the whistle on a match-fixing scandal that ended an early experiment with televised snooker on ITV. The book offers an interesting case study in the relationship between sport and TV, especially when that sport’s success is so inextricably linked to certain broadcasting contracts. Just how interesting you find the book as a whole probably depends on your personal threshold for reading anecdotes about Doug Mountjoy, but happily it turns out mine is surprisingly high.
ESPN has retreated from the British market for televised sport, but in the US it remains the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader. A brilliant oral history of its rise from humble origins at the end of the 1970s is Those Guys Have All The Fun, by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. The book made headlines in America, particularly on Gawker Media’s sport spinoff blog Deadspin, for its claims about various incidents of sexist behaviour down the years at ESPN. The oral history format certainly seemed to help loosen a few tongues of those being interviewed.
Another book to recommend is Martin Kelner’s history of sport on British TV, Sit Down And Cheer. It’s as enjoyably written as Kelner’s columns on this topic, which for a long time appeared in the Guardian and are now in the Racing Post. There are plenty of memorable nuggets, including the detail that there was barely any pre or post-game coverage of the 1966 World Cup Final, and some magnificent passages taken from the autobiography of Frank Bough. Ask your parents.