THE COVERAGE I’ve given Keith Olbermann took a negative turn during the ’08 primary season, but once that was over I rarely missed his show on Current. His return to ESPN is the perfect fit, especially since he seems to have learned some well needed life lessons.
I’ve been waiting patiently along with many other Keith Olbermann fans for his return to broadcasting. Without question one of the most talented broadcasters around, Keith Olbermann inhabits a rarified space of being one of the few people having the quick wit and eviscerating analysis, as well as easy charm and connection with an audience to make his show on ESPN must see.
Keith Olbermann is obviously thinner (by 20 pounds), reportedly has a girlfriend, and is making amends all ’round. Well, except for Al Gore.
“When you’re working for somebody whom you admired politically, who turns out to be a clod,” says Olbermann, referring to Gore, “the scales fall from your eyes. Sorry. Al underdelivered. I mean that’s just simply the case. I don’t want to dwell on it, but it’s true.” Olbermann countersued, asking for $50 million in damages, and the case slowly proceeded to a confidential settlement in March; three months earlier, Qatari-based news organization Al Jazeera bought Current for $500 million, in all likelihood hastening the settlement. (Asked whether he is happy the Current chapter of his career is over, Olbermann quips, “Let’s just say I bought gifts for my lawyers.”) [Hollywood Reporter – The Sports Edition]
As for evidence of a clear attitude adjustment, his intentions this time include lasting long enough to get a gold watch! If you’ve followed Olbermann’s career, that’s quite a statement. His dad would be proud to hear it.
“I could see it on my tombstone, or at least in my obit: ‘Keith Olbermann, who left ESPN in a tempest “¦,’ ” he says, somewhat wistfully. It is Aug. 8, and Olbermann and I are having lunch at the Atlantic Grill on the Upper East Side, just around the corner from his apartment. There is much more white in his hair since he left Current, and he is wearing baggy, faded jeans and a brand-new black polo with a small, red ESPN logo on the breast. “What I would like to go for is: ‘Keith Olbermann, who left ESPN in a tempest in 1997 and then returned later and retired with a gold watch.’ I’d like to give that a shot, having repaired most of the damage. I think that really would be great.” [Hollywood Reporter]
The article in the Hollywood Reporter is excellent and a must read for anyone who’s followed Keith Olbermann’s career. It covers all the bases, including “kissing the ring” of ESPN legend Chris Berman, who I have been watching too many years to admit here, as well as his confession about why it was so damning to bring SportsNight colleague Suzy Kolber to tears. It’s just one confrontation that made his return to ESPN in Bristol, Conn. impossible, but Keith Olbermann didn’t shirk from seeking and speaking to anyone with whom he’d collided.
If he won’t be running into old adversaries in the office cafeteria, he nevertheless embarked on an apology tour of sorts. He published a lengthy 2002 mea culpa on Salon to former SportsNight colleague Kolber, whose pieces Olbermann used to attack on air. And he still seems sorry that she apparently found him so difficult to work with. “Of all the things that I regret, one is that it happened. I mean, you don’t want to provoke anybody to tears but especially a female colleague in what was not a female-conducive environment at that point. It was 10-to-1 men on the [Bristol] campus,” he says. And when he saw her at the Super Bowl in ’09, “we went running at each other with a big hug.” [Hollywood Reporter]
Oh, and by the way, the Hollywood Reporter has 4 covers for the issue, including one featuring Lindsey Vonn.
There’s not a no politics rule in his contract. He’ll fold it into his coverage only in conjunction with sports, he says. Two guests he’s pitching are George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He will also revive “Worst Person in the World,” and I can’t wait.
August 26, 11 pm, ESPN, mark it down. Competition is what could be a juggernaut, Fox Sports.
Olbermann’s return to ESPN comes as the network is girding for a potential incursion from Fox Sports, which will launch its own 24/7 cable sports channel, Fox Sports 1, Aug. 17 in 90 million homes against more than 100 million for ESPN and ESPN2 . But FS1 will not have the NFL, the top ratings draw in sports. (Last season, Monday Night Football on ESPN averaged more than 12.8 million viewers, and NBC’s Sunday Night Football stands as the No. 1 program on all of TV with 21.5 million viewers.) When it launches, FS1 will be in the midst of NASCAR; there also will be UFC fights. And co-presidents Randy Freer and Eric Shanks have spent the past year gobbling up rights including Major League Baseball, Pac-12 college football, NASCAR, FIFA World Cup Soccer and U.S. Open Golf. The network also has hired a cadre of anchors, correspondents and contributors including Erin Andrews, Charissa Thompson, Donovan McNabb, Gary Payton, Andy Roddick and 82-year-old Regis Philbin, who will host the 5 p.m. program Crowd Goes Wild. [Hollywood Reporter]
It will never be ESPN.
Thank the broadcasting gods that Seth Meyer made a deal to take over Late Night for Jimmy Fallon.