Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I miss Keith Olbermann

I really do. I loved watching SportsCenter back in the day, when Olbermann and Dan Patrick anchored the show. They were great, truly great. I think--and I know my age bias is showing--that they really made the show and the network. They created an atmosphere that made the 11 pm SportsCenter the must-watch show for a good chunk of the population. People held up signs at various sporting events that said things like "Good night and God bless, SportsCenter is next." Because if you went to a game in person, the first thing you would do when you got home was flip on SportsCenter. It was a ritual, of sorts.

And that gig made Olbermann's career, there's no way around it. His move to MSNBC--first with the Big Show, then with Countdown--to do hard news didn't move me much. It was always clear that Olbermann was a smart guy and an abrasive one. But at ESPN, that abrasiveness was kept in check by the format. In the news shows, Olbermann's true nature came through, too loud and too clear.

His "feud" with O'Reilly was an extended joke, in my opinion. But I guess it worked for Olbermann's core audience at MSNBC. Still, the attitude kept him in a box, as he became so focused on criticizing ideological opponents in the media that he failed to achieve a real newsman/journalist reputation, something that I think he desperately wanted.

After getting dumped by MSNBC--for reasons unrelated to the ones given publicly, in my opinion--Olbermann took his show to Current TV in 2011, the Al Gore network best known for scrubbing news of its own journalists when they were taken prisoner in North Korea.

I have to admit that I've never watched anything on Current TV (who has, really?), but I was stunned to learn that Olbermann is apparently being paid $50 million for a five-year contract. That's a lot of jingle. A lot of jingle. And for what? A third or fourth tier show that no one is watching? Worse still, according to the article linked to above, Olbermann is throwing temper tantrums at Current TV and actually refused to cover the Iowa Caucus, leading to a preemption of his show for that coverage. Silliness. And for nothing more than placating what is apparently a massive ego.

Olbermann may be rich, but he's become a joke, as far as journalism goes. And I'm pretty sure that's exactly what he didn't want, exactly what he was trying to avoid when he left ESPN. But that's where he did his best work, that's where--for a few years--he was deeply admired and, yes, even loved. It's a shame.

Cheers, all.