Kurtz: America’s sports fans need … Olbermann
posted at 8:32 am on March 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Do they? Do they really? And … is that even the question at hand? Howard Kurtz says that ESPN should find room for Keith Olbermann to return to his roots as a sports broadcaster, but offers a pretty slender justification:
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.” …
“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.
Says who? Full disclosure: I am a previous winner of both the Best and Worst Person in the World awards from Olbermann during his tenure at MSNBC, within a ten-week period. I was also a fan of Olbermann’s snarky sports commentary during his ESPN gig, at least for a while, until his self-regard grew so obvious and tiresome that it negated some of his better iconoclastic impulses. That was long before his political rants made him entirely unwatchable.
Howard seems to predicate this call on some type of entitlement for Olbermann to have access to broadcast media, and the notion that he’s been exiled as a punishment for something. Neither is true. Olbermann isn’t “sidelined” except by his perceived lack of overall value at ESPN and other broadcasters, thanks to his track record and behavior. That’s not a punishment — it’s simply a realistic market assessment. ESPN doesn’t owe him a job, and neither does anyone else.
If Olbermann wants to comment on sports, he can create his own opportunities to do so — either by offering his commentary on line or starting his own cable channel. He has more resources than most to do either, thanks to the lucrative contracts he received during his career. If Olbermann can convince a broadcast entity that he brings added value for the costs he carries — monetary and otherwise — they’ll hire him. If that happens, or if he creates his own outlet, I hope he returns to his early ESPN style and sticks with it. If he does, I’m sure he’ll find some success, and Howard can follow along.