SBD/March 5, 2013/Media

Critics Weigh In On Reports Of Keith Olbermann's Interest In Returning To ESPN

Olbermann's presence on ESPN was called "iconic" by one writer
Broadcaster Keith Olbermann reportedly is interested in returning to ESPN and CNN.com’s Howard Kurtz writes it would be “great fun to see him holding forth again on sporting matters.” Kurtz wonders, “Is the guy supposed to stay sidelined for the rest of his life, just because he's got a bit of a temper?” The thing about “ubertalented people is that they're often 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,” thus the question, as “always, is whether he's worth it.” But after a year of “unemployment and tweeting mainly about sports, perhaps Olbermann has mellowed.” ESPN has “certainly tolerated its share of loudmouths, from the analyst who was let go for calling Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a ‘cornball brother’ to the commentator who uttered the n-word on the air.” Olbermann's problems “tend to unfold off the field, not in front of the camera, though he's occasionally apologized for going too far.” Kurtz: “It couldn't hurt for ESPN to jazz things up” (CNN.com, 3/5).

NOT SO FAST: SPORTS ON EARTH’s Will Leitch wrote Olbermann back at ESPN is “a historically awful idea, and I'm pretty sure ESPN agrees with me.” But it is “worth unpacking anyway, to try to understand what Olbermann might possibly be thinking.” Leitch: “I understand why Olbermann would consider a return to ESPN. Like many people, particularly those around my age group, I consider Olbermann on ESPN iconic.” Olbermann, along “with (to a lesser extent, Dan Patrick), changed sports, and sports coverage, and ESPN does him a disservice if it fails to remember that.” Patrick and Olbermann as “SportsCenter” co-hosts “made that show must-watch, even if you weren't a sports fan.” Still, a personality as big as Olbermann had become “could never thrive at ESPN anymore.” It is “impossible to imagine him throwing it to Stephen A. Smith and Eric Mangini for the Coors Light Cold Hard Facts without wanting to kill himself.” Leitch wondered what else Olbermann could do as it is “tough to see him having some sort of ‘Countdown’-esque show.” Leitch concluded: “I'm a big fan of the guy. He's one of the reasons I ended up working in sports. But if he really thinks this ESPN thing could possibly work, he's a lunatic. The ESPN you once knew is gone, Keith. It's been gone for a long, long time” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 3/4).
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