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Book Review: “Monday Night Mayhem: The Inside Story of ABC’s Monday Night Football” (1994)

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Monday Night Mayhem: The Inside Story of ABC's Monday Night FootballMonday Night Mayhem: The Inside Story of ABC’s Monday Night Football by Marc Gunter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bill Carter will go on to write better books about late night television, one of which would become the mini-series THE LATE SHIFT. But he cut his teeth, along with co-author Marc Gunter, on this thorough yet swift look at a television and sports phenom that’s really the larger story of capitalism: innovation leads to sameness which results in the innovation left behind in the file room of history. The drama is Shakespeare meets high school lunchroom, with everyone wearing their egos and insecurities on the outside of their clothes. But MONDAY NIGHT MAYHEM leads us, gently, yes, to a difficult question: Are those the kind of people who make great things? Not jerks, per se but people with half formed ideas but full tanks of ambition, people with rough edges who make stupid mistakes, which seem stupid but the risk is higher? There isn’t an answer at the end of this book but its a question and a conundrum that hasn’t aged a bit since this book came out in 1994.

Postscript: Can you enjoy this book if you don’t care about football? Yes. If you care about business, media, entertainment and human drama. But MONDAY NIGHT MAYHEM has a natural limitation: Announcing and broadcasting is all about smoothing over errors. And at a national television network level, errors are small and rarely noticed by the viewer. Which means its pretty much impossible for the authors to describe the “fiascos” the characters in this book commit while announcing football games, mistakes that were so pivotal to their fates. Why? Because they seem like petty nothings to us, the reader, even though they seem career-ending to the characters.

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