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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

June 10, 1997|LARRY STEWART

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "The Big Show: Inside ESPN's SportsCenter," by Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick.

Publisher: Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster.

Price: $23.

"The Big Show," as a book, is a big flop. Oh, it has its moments, but basically it's boring. Put Olbermann and Patrick in front of a camera, they do a pretty nice job. If you don't believe us, read the book. They'll tell you, and have such people as Charles Barkley and Rebecca Lobo tell you too. But as authors, they fail miserably.

You read this book and keep asking yourself, why was it written? The answer seems to be that it appeases two fairly good-sized egos. Who has the bigger ego? Guess!

Oh, sure, they make a stab at being self-effacing. There's a whole chapter entitled, "Bill Buckner--What Happened?" It's a reference to Buckner's error at first base that cost the Boston Red Sox the 1986 World Series. Here, the two write about some of their on-air mistakes and some made by others they work with. Once a colleague, talking about a back injury, mispronounced disk. Maybe it was funny to hear it at the time, but in the book it does not come across nearly as funny as they seem to think it was. One night Patrick called himself Bob Ley. Ha ha. And once, Olbermann called Terry Donahue Terry Dona-who. Another knee-slapper.

One time Patrick couldn't say the word "mound" while some Chicago White Sox highlights were rolling. In the same highlights was a shot of a really overweight guy, sitting there in 49-degree weather. Patrick says, "Lots of jokes come to mind here, but I want to keep my job." And Olbermann says, "There's your darn mound." Of this, Olbermann writes, "I lose it. There are tears in my eyes I'm laughing so hard." Guess you had to be there.

Olbermann conveniently leaves out the time, during the 1988 Summer Olympics while he was at Channel 2, that he accused Florence Griffith Joyner of using steroids, even though he had no proof. No serious mistakes like that make the book.

Another problem with the book is there is no format. In one chapter, the authors write in five-second sound bites, in another they drool on and on and on about the most boring stuff imaginable.

There are two good chapters. In one, they give advice to youngsters interested in becoming sportscasters. They emphasize as a requisite an ability to write. If these two guys can write, they couldn't prove it with this book.

The other good chapter is the final one. It's a tribute to their former colleague, Tom Mees, who drowned in a neighbor's swimming pool last year. Only about four pages long, this chapter is just the right size. The rest of the 308-page book could easily have been edited to half that.

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