Game On


Game On

How Sports Media Grew Up, Sold Out, and Got Personal with Billions of Fans

David Bockino

376 pages


April 2024


$36.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In Game On David Bockino, a former marketing and advertising manager at ESPN turned professor of communications and sport management, provides the first overview of the evolution of the sports media industry. Written at a time of great uncertainty and rapid change and told through the fascinating stories of the most important innovations, matchups, events, and personalities over the last hundred years, Game On explores how sports media both affects and reflects our society.

From the groundbreaking radio broadcast of the Jack Dempsey–Georges Carpentier boxing match in 1921 and the launch of Sports Illustrated magazine in 1954 to the birth of ESPN in 1979 and the unveiling of the NFL’s yellow line in 1998, Game On details the most important events, platforms, and personalities in the evolution of the sports media industry. Early on, sports media had the unique ability to bring people together: nationally through the Olympic Games and regionally through telecasts of local professional teams. Increased interest led to more innovation and more options—cable TV, sports talk radio, internet broadcasts, and now multitudes of podcasts. With so many choices, some fans have begun to show deeper loyalties to brands or personalities in place of loyalties to teams or players. Today the personalization of sports content means broadcasters increasingly focus on what individual consumers want, often at the expense of the collective fan experience.

Exploring the evolution of the sports media industry can tell us a lot about how our world has changed over the past hundred years and how it might yet change in the future. Through an exploration of sports media trends, Bockino shows that the industry’s privileging of personal over collective interests reflects how people today form and maintain their social identities—and sports’ key role in shaping them.

Author Bio

David Bockino is an associate professor at Elon University, where he teaches communications and sport management. He spent more than seven years working with ESPN, including ESPN Outdoors, ESPN Research and Analytics, and ESPN International. He is the author of The Guidebook Experiment: Discovering Exploration in a Hyper-Connected World.


“Where sports media is heading—and where it’s been—is a vexing and complex question that impacts every sports fan. Those charged with broadcasting and chronicling the games we love are part of a multibillion-dollar business—and David Bockino has thrown himself into an examination of this ever-evolving world with passion and an engaging writing style. . . . Game On will help educate you as a sports consumer.”—Richard Deitsch, writer for The Athletic and host of the Sports Media podcast

“An excellent, comprehensive exploration into the evolution of sports media that takes the reader to all corners of the globe, bringing to life an impressive review of sports fan content consumption from the environs of Times Square in the twentieth century to the modern social media square of the twenty-first.”—Peter Leimbach, senior vice president at Fox Sports Research

Game On is an introspective look at the vastly changing landscape of sports media. Game On outlines what brought the industry to where it is today and explains to the reader why important moments such as the rise of ESPN, the emergence of fantasy sports, and the proliferation of special telecasts drew fan bases and increased sports’ presence in everyday society. It’s a fascinating read for any sports lover.”—Emmanuel Morgan, sports reporter for the New York Times

Table of Contents


Prologue: Unparalleled Absurdity

Part 1. Origin
1. The Fight of the Century: Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier (1921)

Part 2. Purpose
2. A Dangerous Precedent: Berlin Summer Olympics (1936)
3. Made for Television: New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers World Series (1947)
4. Gee Whiz: The Launch of Sports Illustrated (1954)
5. The Greatest Game Ever Played: The Sports Broadcasting Act (1961)
6. Our World: FIFA World Cup (1966)

Part 3. Spectacle
7. Libber vs. Lobber: Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs (1973)
8. Another Fight of the Century: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (1975)
9. An Arid Spectacle: World Series Cricket (1977–79)

Part 4. Growth
10. How to Be Rich: The Launch of ESPN (1979)
11. A Classic Cartel: NCAA vs. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma (1984)
12. 1-800-SPORTS: Mike and the Mad Dog (1989)
13. A Whole New Ballgame: English Premier League’s Monday Night Football (1992)
14. ESPN vs. SportsLine (1994)
15. Boom! Fantasy Sports, Video Games, and the NFL’s Yellow Line (1998)

Part 5. Control
16. Rapidly Converging Media Platforms: The Rise and Fall of the WUSA (2001–3)
17. Content: NBA and Turner Agreement (2007)
18. The Sports Guys: Leitch vs. Bissinger on Costas Now (2008)
19. An Essential Good: Fútbol para Todos (2009)
20. #Jeah: Ryan Lochte at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games (2012)

Part 6. The Fan
21. On-Demand: ESPN’s College Football Playoff Championship Megacast (2015)
22. Millionaire Makers: Murphy vs. NCAA (2018)
23. Superfine Market Segmentation: NBA Global Games (2019)

Epilogue: Sports Heaven

Selected Bibliography

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