THE GAME BEHIND THE GAME: High Pressure, High Stak by Terry O'Neil

THE GAME BEHIND THE GAME: High Pressure, High Stak

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Self-centered reminiscences on big-time sports from an erstwhile insider whose career in network TV short-circuited before he reached 40. Fresh out of Notre Dame in 1971, O'Neil was hired by ABC-TV to do advance research and on-site scut work for its coverage of the Olympic Games in Munich, during which Arab terrorists slaughtered 11 members of the Israeli contingent. Still on the corporate payroll, he earned a graduate degree at Columbia's School of Journalism in 1974. Rising through the ranks, the author became the producer of NFL Monday Night Football, a position he soon lost after one run-in too many with the imperious Howard Cosell. Moving on to CBS in 1981 (at age 31), O'Neil helped revive its pro-football ratings. Again, however, a feud with another on-air personality (Brent Musberger) cost him his job as executive producer, and he left the company's employ in mid-1986. O'Neil (now the host of a Sunday morning interview show on ESPN, a cable network) is at his best when explaining just how TV goes about covering major sports events. As he makes abundantly clear, any number of things can and do go wrong in both stateside and foreign venues. Unfortunately, the author has a lot of axes to grind, and much of the selectively anecdotal narrative is devoted to heavy-handed, core-settling accounts of how bloody-minded or blundering superiors frustrated his best efforts to bring the viewing public top-drawer programs and reportage. O'Neil has kind words for kindred spirits (Pat Summerall, John Madden), but he's not a bit shy about claiming virtually complete credit for achievements that, of necessity, were collaborations, e.g., "]President Neal H. Prison] had been doing an obscure development job for the Broadcast Group while [Van Gordon] Sauter and I were reshaping CBS Sports." Although much of what O'Neil asserts or implies about network TV's politicking and turf battles may well be on the money, his tunnel-vision version rings about as true as a highlights film.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1989
ISBN: 06-016019-5
Publisher: HarperCollins
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