ESPN to Olbermann: No politics

posted at 10:41 am on July 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Keith Olbermann landed a new gig with an old partner, but under some tough conditions.  After first getting a spot on TBS’ post-season coverage of Major League Baseball, ESPN decided to pick him up for a new late-night sports talk show, sixteen years after his acrimonious departure:

Keith Olbermann will return to TV sooner than expected. The former MSNBC and Current anchor has finalized a deal with ESPN for a late-night show to air on ESPN2 later this year, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. The show will originate from the ABC News Nightlinestudio overlooking Times Square. The deal is expected to be announced Wednesday. …

Of course, Olbermann’s clashes with management are well-documented. And his departure from ESPN in 1997 was less than amicable. He has said that he learned he was banned from the network’s Bristol, Conn., campus and he intimated in an interview with David Letterman that the relationship was irreparable.

“If you burn a bridge, you can possibly build a new bridge, but if there’s no river any more, that’s a lot of trouble,” said Olbermann during a 2007 appearance on Letterman’s Late Show.

And Olbermann wryly alluded to his peripatetic employment history during a June 5 conference call with reporters announcing the Turner deal.

“The safety valve here is that my season is about a month long,” he said, referring to Turner’s three weeks of postseason. “And if you go through the 37 pages of my resume you will notice that every one of my jobs has lasted at least one month.”

Given his history, ESPN wants to take some precautions with their Welcome Back Keither project.  One of those precautions has to do with the audience, reports the New York Times, in that ESPN would like a larger one than MSNBC (via Taylor Marsh):

Within ESPN, there was concern about asking Olbermann back because he left the network under emotionally charged circumstances and because it was feared by some that Olbermann had become too politicized as the host of his interim MSNBC program “Countdown,” which aired from 2003 through January 2011.

 On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events, but not politics, the two-year pact specifies.

With any other commentator, this kind of restriction would be insulting.  In Olbermann’s case, it’s for his own good as well as ESPN’s.

Why did ESPN swallow its distaste for Olbermann and offer him a slot?  Fox Sports is ramping up their sports channel, advertising heavily on television to boost their presence, and landed its own broadcasting legend in that slot.  Note that I say broadcasting legend, and not sports broadcasting legend:

ESPN executives said Olbermann will help it face the challenge presented by the launch of Fox Sports 1, a rival all-sports network that just announced plans for a potentially similar series to star Regis Philbin, 82.

Philbin’s a great entertainer, but I don’t think he’s a dire threat to ESPN’s command of sports credibility.

Olbermann’s return to the platform of his greatest success doesn’t surprise me too much.  If ESPN can juice its ratings with Olbermann and keep him in a box to minimize the negative impact of his presence, then this is a smart move.  However, politics hasn’t been his only problem.  If Olbermann has improved his interpersonal skills, this could be quite a comeback for him, but that remains to be seen.  For those who miss Olbermann’s quick wit in sports commentary, this is a boon, temporary though it might be.


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OMG just one more reason NOT to watch ESPN

redguy on July 17, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Me to ESPN: No Olbermann

mjbrooks3 on July 17, 2013 at 10:44 AM

I’m okay with Olbermann on TV as long as its no politics, no sports, no glasses, no eyebrows, no talking, no gesturing, no stupid face, camera and mic turned off just in case.

For those who miss Olbermann’s quick wit in sports commentary, this is a boon…

For Olbermann’s level of wit, it can only be half a boon.

Gingotts on July 17, 2013 at 10:45 AM

(Dramatic look)
TODAY… in Competitive Basket-weaving.

mojo on July 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Disgusting, as usual.

Old Country Boy on July 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM

On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events…

Do the people at ESPN really believe Olbermann won’t weasel in his political viewpoints if they allow him to talk about current events? What a joke.

VinceOfDoom on July 17, 2013 at 10:47 AM

I see a stormy departure somewhere down the road…ESPN welcomes back their client #9.

d1carter on July 17, 2013 at 10:49 AM

If they wanted to trust their new hire to avoid poliitics, they shoulda hired a test pattern.

apostic on July 17, 2013 at 10:49 AM

ESPN is so full of left wing bias, just like 90% of the media.

kirkill on July 17, 2013 at 10:50 AM

I can’t even listen to Classic Vinyl on Sirius XM without the stupid hippy DJ coming on with some left wing idiocy.

kirkill on July 17, 2013 at 10:51 AM

The Herpes of tv – never goes away.

50sGuy on July 17, 2013 at 10:51 AM

(snort!)

ESPN, and Disney, and ABC affliates which they own, etc. THEY SUCK UP TO OBAMA every chance they can get.

Again, this, a big snort!

Sir Napsalot on July 17, 2013 at 10:52 AM

I’ll be tuning into Fox Sports, thank you very much.

BigGator5 on July 17, 2013 at 10:52 AM

How long until his first meltdown?

portlandon on July 17, 2013 at 10:52 AM

After his getting booted from MSNBC, I read a sports story where a reporter went with Keith Olbermann to a Yankees game. It was hilarious! Mr. Olbermann’s money-guy seating wasn’t enough. He had to adjust so that he was in Bill O’Reilly’s direct line of sight throughout the interview. Oh, goodness! Have to find and link it.

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on July 17, 2013 at 10:54 AM

I give him 6 months…he’ll go over like a fart in church…

ToddPA on July 17, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Good thing for me I’m not a sports fan.

Still, ESPN shouldn’t allow him to cover anything other than the Zimbabwe Toboggan Team.

Liam on July 17, 2013 at 10:56 AM

What could go wrong?

Chris of Rights on July 17, 2013 at 10:56 AM

WHY?

I mean For God’s Sake…WHY?

workingclass artist on July 17, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I actually find Olberman to have a great mind for sports. If I didn’t know his politics I’d find him to be a good commentator. I just fear that he won’t stick to the no politics agreement.

eski502 on July 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM

You can take the Olberman outta politics, but you can’t take the politics outta the Olberman.

ted c on July 17, 2013 at 11:01 AM

To ESPN, I won’t watch.

rjoco1 on July 17, 2013 at 11:01 AM

eski502 on July 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM

He was good back before he jumped the Sharknado!

I can’t stand the sound of his voice anymore.

kirkill on July 17, 2013 at 11:02 AM

“If you burn a bridge, you can possibly build a new bridge, but if there’s no river any more, that’s a lot of trouble,” said Olbermann during a 2007 appearance on Letterman’s Late Show.

If there’s no river anymore, why would you worry about needing a bridge?

I really would expect more from a Cornell Cow College man…

JohnGalt23 on July 17, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Hope I can get Fox Sports 1

gophergirl on July 17, 2013 at 11:04 AM

He can do cursive.

Schadenfreude on July 17, 2013 at 11:05 AM

will they put plastic on the chairs?

elowe on July 17, 2013 at 11:05 AM

I actually find Olberman to have a great mind for sports. If I didn’t know his politics I’d find him to be a good commentator. I just fear that he won’t stick to the no politics agreement.

eski502 on July 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM

I agree. The Olbermann/Patrick Sportscenters were must-see viewing for sports fans back in the mid-90s. Their commercials were legendary, too.

But Olby’s ego got the better of him. Maybe he’s learned to mellow and just enjoy sports without creating a Worst Person in the World bit.

Nethicus on July 17, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Since he has never left a job under anything than negative publicity (especially ESPN), I find it hilarious that ESPN thinks things will be different this time.

Bitter Clinger on July 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Regis is 82?? I thought he was in his 60′s

bluegill on July 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

This won’t end well.

Robert_Paulson on July 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

I doubt that keeping him away from political commentary will be enough. I find that, with actors and singers, if I know their politics and if I disagree with them, I don’t enjoy their performance anymore. It’s not even like it’s some kind of boycott. It’s just that once they’ve spouted off with some sort of mind-numbingly stupid, leftist rant… it’s all I think of when I look at them.
And Keith Olberman is the KING of “mind-numbingly stupid, leftist rants”.

Murf76 on July 17, 2013 at 11:13 AM

ESPN is so full of left wing bias, just like 90% of the media.

kirkill on July 17, 2013 at 10:50 AM

True of course, but there’s no excuse for bringing politics into sports like ESPN does.

slickwillie2001 on July 17, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Why do niche brands try so hard to ruin their business?

Cindy Munford on July 17, 2013 at 11:18 AM

bluegill on July 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

We should all be so lucky to age as he has.

Cindy Munford on July 17, 2013 at 11:19 AM

ESPN sucks anyway.

michaelthomas on July 17, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Given that ESPN has fallen into the leftwing toilet, not surprising.

Sympathy gig from Olbermann’s old boyfriend.

rbj on July 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Unless you ban Keith from using Twitter, it won’t matter if he doesn’t say something outrageous on ESPN — he’ll say it using alternative media, and ESPN will then have to deal with the blowback.

jon1979 on July 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM

The only time I watch ESPN is if they’re carrying a game that I want to watch. I have even stopped watching their early round golf coverage a couple of years ago due to the incessant talking and idiocy of Chris Berman.

ESPN has ruined sports in many ways.

I haven’t watched any of their other programming for years. I expect that to continue with this news.

AScott on July 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Hopefully this allows him to afford an apartment complex that allows him to keep his cat!

vegconservative on July 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

I remember that! Most brilliant performance of Ben Affleck’s career. His choice of voice was bizarre, but the portrayal of Keith Olbermann as irredeemably insane (and weird with the “Precious Perfect” cat that, ‘scuse me I didn’t watch the vid, caused his Worst Persons picks) was a masterpiece!

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on July 17, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Please let Keith make political comments on ESPN. His words remind me why I’m not a liberal.

CrustyB on July 17, 2013 at 11:30 AM

I remember that! Most brilliant performance of Ben Affleck’s career. His choice of voice was bizarre, but the portrayal of Keith Olbermann as irredeemably insane (and weird with the “Precious Perfect” cat that, ‘scuse me I didn’t watch the vid, caused his Worst Persons picks) was a masterpiece!

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on July 17, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Didn’t he also do Rachel Maddeau? Some guy on SNL knocked that one out of the park, but it has been scrubbed from Youtube.

slickwillie2001 on July 17, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Wow. There goes my ESPN subscription.

KMC1 on July 17, 2013 at 11:37 AM

Olbermann on ESPN the “OCHO”!

mechkiller_k on July 17, 2013 at 11:37 AM

To ESPN, I won’t watch.

rjoco1 on July 17, 2013 at 11:01 AM

+ 1000

Katfish on July 17, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Unless you ban Keith from using Twitter, it won’t matter if he doesn’t say something outrageous on ESPN — he’ll say it using alternative media, and ESPN will then have to deal with the blowback.

jon1979 on July 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Yeah, I also predict he’ll go Alec Baldwin, too, ‘cept ESPN will probably be less likely to put up with Olbermann’s nonsense than Baldwin’s employers put up with his.

apostic on July 17, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Keith = Lucy
ESPN = Charlie Brown

CaptFlood on July 17, 2013 at 11:43 AM

The only time I watch ESPN is if they’re carrying a game that I want to watch. I have even stopped watching their early round golf coverage a couple of years ago due to the incessant talking and idiocy of Chris Berman.

AScott on July 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Oh God, don’t get me started. Granted I hate 90% of everybody that covers golf because their contracts evidently all require that they spend 48 minutes of every hour actively praising anything Tiger Woods does, says, thinks, smells, or farts regardless of whether he’s even in the tournament. Berman takes that crap to an entirely different level. He was one of the few actually defending Woods in the immediate wake of his Thanksgiving jaunt into a fire hydrant.

Couple that with the fact he has absolutely no clue about anything else in the sport, and he’s the TV representation for the average low-info Internet golf fan that makes me hate discussing the sport most places.

Then there’s their Nascar coverage. Sometimes, when I listen to him talk, I’m almost amazed that I really liked Dale Jarrett as a driver. But he’s just mediocre. It’s Allen Bestwick that has the truly punchable face. Especially with that hokey fake laugh and the fact that he pees himself every time anybody mentions the very possibility of a green white checker finish.

Gingotts on July 17, 2013 at 11:48 AM

You know, i always enjoyed him as a sportscenter host in the 90′s with Dan Patrick, but now i cant look at him without thinking of what a completely delusional wack job he is….

There was probably a time when i could have forgotten about his politics and enjoyed his sports broadcasting, but thats long gone.

Sorry ESPN youre a little too late to save the guys rep.

alecj on July 17, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Yeah, I also predict he’ll go Alec Baldwin, too, ‘cept ESPN will probably be less likely to put up with Olbermann’s nonsense than Baldwin’s employers put up with his.

apostic on July 17, 2013 at 11:43 AM

I was actually shocked that Chris Brousard survived the Jason Collins kerfuffle earlier this year, though I assume on a PC scale, it put the network in a bind having an African-American contributor objecting to Collins’ homosexuality on religious grounds.

My guess is when (not ‘if’) Olbermann posts his first angry political comment on Twitter, ESPN gives him a Mulligan and tells him he can’t go full-MSNBC on the internet, either. But like Baldwin he won’t be able to stop making comments as the 2014 campaign season gets rolling, and unlike Capital One and Alec, the network won’t keep ignoring his bad behavior and will end up having to cut Olby loose after some second unhinged online rant.

jon1979 on July 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM

I give it six months tops before the wheels start to come off. Perhaps a lot sooner. Let me know what happens because I won’t be watching.

jnelchef on July 17, 2013 at 12:08 PM

ESPN is sending a message…. Suck it Middle America.

faraway on July 17, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Got to agree. Keefums can’t keep his mouth shut. Six months, tops, and he’ll be looking for a new job.

GarandFan on July 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Liberal network hires a left wing nut job but tells him he can’t discuss politics. Yeah, right. Also, with Congress sticking it’s nose into sports more and more — doping, football concussions, gay rights, etc. — how can discussing politics be avoided anyway?

My over-under is 6 months before he implodes again.

TXUS on July 17, 2013 at 12:25 PM

As pissy as I am about ESPN hiring this clown, NCAA basketball doesn’t start until November, and there’s no was Olby makes it that long. I’m not worried.

baldylox on July 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM

I sent a note to ESPN that I won’t be watching, and I’m moving my Fantasy Football team off of ESPN.com.

Told them they reap what they sow.

kirkill on July 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Saw this quote somewhere else:
Wow, that’s funny. There used to be the liberal dooshbag with the same name on MSNBC.

Guarantee the “no politics” will last less than a week.

-west

mr_west on July 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Can he broadcast from his bathtub?

Or are they going to take his mysterious absences?

Axeman on July 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Hopefully this allows him to afford an apartment complex that allows him to keep his cat!

vegconservative on July 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Purrrfect, veg, purrrfect!

At least this deal insures I will not have him interrupting my “Sunday Night Football” on NBC. Then again…I’m sure Costas will still be there to illuminate me on the evils of society, guns, etc. *sigh*

Captain Scarlet on July 17, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Olberman is a creep. His show will fail within a few months. ESPN2 is where old sports shows go to die.

Captain Kirock on July 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM

I don’t watch ESPN any more anyway, since they didn’t fire Kenny Mayne for his Palin comments on twitter. I think it’s been about four years. (I have watched monday night football if the steelers were playing a couple of times since then)

So this won’t make any difference to me.

jaime on July 17, 2013 at 1:04 PM

Just what we need. Olby’s “Worst Player in the World” countdown. Brilliant ESPN. Just brilliant. I hope Regis kicks Olby’s ass.

eyesights on July 17, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Scratch any sportswiter/caster and you’ll find an uber liberal wannabe OpEd commentator.

Bevan on July 17, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Eh, Olbermann’s a pretty talented guy. I don’t plan to watch him (the only thing I ever watch on ESPN is live sports), but if he keeps to this agreement, and gets along with management, it could be a decent deal for both parties.

LukeinNE on July 17, 2013 at 1:34 PM

Ok… don’t hate me. While I despise Olbermann as a political commentator, and his MSNBC show threatened to make my head explode.

I absolutely loved his work on ESPN. Keith was for years my favorite sportscaster… and during their prime he and Dan Patrick were spectacular together. They were magic. If Keith can focus on sports and keep from belittling my beliefs… I will tune in.

therambler on July 17, 2013 at 1:46 PM

But he will get to pose with the other naked athletes, to appeal to the “men” who still actually watch ESPN.

MNHawk on July 17, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Just what we need. Olby’s “Worst Player in the World” countdown. Brilliant ESPN. Just brilliant. I hope Regis kicks Olby’s ass.

eyesights on July 17, 2013 at 1:10 PM

This is ESPN, circa 2013. It will be “Worst Player’s Butt of the Week.”

MNHawk on July 17, 2013 at 2:02 PM

ESPN’s command of sports credibility.

HA! We’re talking about the network that airs tournaments for collectable card games.

PXCharon on July 17, 2013 at 2:19 PM

I guees we can look forward to the “Worst Player In The World” segments.

Yeesh. Reason #5,681 not to pay for televsion.

Galtian on July 17, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Didn’t he also do Rachel Maddeau? Some guy on SNL knocked that one out of the park, but it has been scrubbed from Youtube.

slickwillie2001 on July 17, 2013 at 11:35 AM

If so, I didn’t catch that one.

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on July 17, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Well, looks like I won’t watch ESPN anymore. Fox sports has taken a lot of ESPN’s talent (Erin Andrews).

nazo311 on July 17, 2013 at 3:53 PM

“These shows will be appointment viewing for that very reason,” Skipper said. “Keith brings a blend of editorial sophistication and unpredictability — you can never be sure what you’ll get.” – ESPN President John Skipper

Well, isn’t that special.
They know exactly what they are getting and it will doom ESPN2.
Any bets on how long that fat-mouthed punk can stay away from politics?
~(A)~

Karl Magnus on July 17, 2013 at 4:22 PM

I had no idea Olby was politically divisive when he was on MSNBC.

dverplank on July 17, 2013 at 6:14 PM

You know, if this keeps him from going somewhere and tainting impressionable youth with his nonsensical political rhetoric, then I support the move. Keep him OFF political topics.

Freeloader on July 17, 2013 at 10:52 PM