After 25 years as a production executive at ESPN, Cheshire’s Dennis Deninger is now a teacher – and author.
His new book, “Sports on Television: The How and Why Behind What You See,” is available as a pre-order on Amazon.com and will be used this fall as a textbook for his Syracuse University class of the same name. Deninger said he tells his students, “By the end of this class, I guarantee you’ll watch TV differently than you ever have.”
“If you’re a fan of sports on TV, it’s a story of how it comes together,” Deninger said. “Anyone who watches ESPN will find interesting stories on how ESPN started in Connecticut,” he added.
Deninger was hired in 1982 as one of four original producers for ESPN’s SportsCenter. He left in 2008 after being hired by his alma mater to teach at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Locally, he’s on the board of the Cheshire Education Foundation and served on the Cheshire Board of Education.
His book lists about 15 ways that ESPN changed television, Deninger said. The chapter titles include:
- Beginnings: The Decades of Experimentation and Fulfillment
- The Pro Football Ascendancy
- The Evolution of Sports Commentators
- International Sports Broadcasting
- Power and Economics
“In 1993, Fox was the competition for product,” Deninger said. “You’ll see how ESPN got Monday Night Football. This is where it all came from. The product is different from what you see now,” he added.
The book’s foreword is written by George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports. He writes, “…Television remains the driving force in sports media with its ability to reach a mass audience. … There has never been a better time to be a sports fan.”
When asked about his most memorable moments at ESPN, Deninger points to producing live television from Moscow and Zimbabwe. “We had the cables literally cut in Moscow. They wanted a kickback. We paid $1,000 to get it reconnected,” he said. That was for the 1995 broadcast of the Davis Cup competition featuring the U.S. and Russia.
Another similar scenario occurred in Zimbabwe, Deninger said. “They hadn’t done live tennis in 20 years. There were two TV trucks in the whole country which were gifts of the French government.” Without giving away the story, Deninger said black-market gasoline came into play. Tennis fans in the U.S. saw the broadcast, never knowing the strings that were pulled to get the tournament on the air.
In his preface, Deninger discusses the book’s topics. “The objective is to go several layers deep beyond 'just the game,' to help you understand why you are seeing the selected events and program that are televised, how sports television works as a business, how sports has changed television and how television has changed sports.”
Editor's note: Part II of "Sports on Television" will be posted Wednesday on Cheshire Patch.