Why ESPN Should Take a Deep Breath and–Rehire Keith Olbermann!
Keith Olbermann—formerly of MSNBC, formerly of Current TV, formerly of Fox, formerly of ESPN—wants back in the game.
More to the point, he wants to return to his sports roots by reuniting with ESPN.
Now it would be easy to torpedo that idea by noting that Olbermann has burned bridges everywhere he has worked, and could inflame things back at ESPN.
But I won’t.
Instead I’m going to lead a chant: Let’s Go Keith!!
It would be great fun to see him holding forth again on sporting matters. Is the guy supposed to stay sidelined for the rest of his life, just because he’s got a bit of a temper? Don’t the fans of America deserve better?
The New York Times reports that Olbermann recently had dinner with ESPN’s president, John Skipper, who says they had a fine time. But they weren’t just shooting the breeze: “Clearly he was looking to see if there was an entry point to come back,” Skipper said. Olbermann, in turn, praised Skipper’s “vision and charm.”
So to put it in betting terms, what are the odds?
“There was no real appropriate place for Keith to come back, nor did I feel like I was prepared to bring him back,” Skipper told the Times.
ESPN is in the business of covering athletic competition, right? What could be more spellbinding than waiting to see whether Olbermann declares some jock the “worst person in the world”—or, even better, grabs a baseball bat in some confrontation with the bosses?
I’m being facetious, of course. But I miss the guy. Even though there have been times when he has thrown brushback pitches at me. But I’m going to rise above that, for the greater good of television.
The thing about uber-talented people is that they’re difficult to manage. Olbermann is a great broadcaster, but sometimes he lets his anger get the best of him. He makes life very difficult for his bosses. The question, as always, is whether he’s worth it.
Olbermann worked for ESPN from 1992 to 1997, so he can claim, you know, it’s a new century and all that. He and Dan Patrick were a very popular team as co-hosts of Sports Center.
But then Olbermann left, prompting an ESPN executive to offer this classic quote: “He didn’t burn bridges here. He napalmed them.”
Abandoning sports for politics, Olbermann hosted The Big Show on MSNBC, riding the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky wave to prominence until he quit, saying he was “ashamed” of what he was doing.
Next up was Fox Sports, where Olbermann worked for three years. “I fired him. He’s crazy,” owner Rupert Murdoch later said. Olbermann had always blamed Rupe for his departure.
After a brief stint at CNN, Olberman returned to MSNBC, where he almost single-handedly revived the channel. Riding a wave of anti-Bush sentiment during the Iraq war, Olbermann’s Countdown redefined MSNBC as cable’s leading liberal outlet and boosted its ratings for eight years. But clashes with management grew, he was briefly suspended over making political donations, and the two sides severed their relationship.
Olbermann resurfaced with a $10-million-a-year deal at Current TV, boasting about his independence from corporate media as Al Gore gave him the title of chief news officer. But the marriage quickly soured, with Olbermann complaining about the cheesiness of the facilities (“a daily logistical nightmare” that “more closely resembles cable access,” according to an e-mail from his rep) and management complaining about temper tantrums, a mug-throwing incident and days off. After less than a year, the two sides wound up suing each other last spring.
So why should ESPN bring him back?
Read more at CNN.com
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