Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Welcome Back To The The Big Show

Keith Olbermann is one of the more reliably incendiary broadcasters in journalism, not just on-screen but off it as well. He is notable for tense, pointed and heated bouts of commentary filled with righteous fury. He is also notable for pointing that fury at his bosses to the point where they become unable to deal with him. He left ESPN in 1997 because of what was referred to as "emotionally charged circumstances", and proceeded to burn bridges at Fox Sports Net in 2001, MSNBC in 2003, MSNBC again in 2011, and Current TV in 2012. It was my figuring that his Current TV gig was in a last-chance capacity; if he couldn't make it work there, nobody else on television would touch him.

Once again, my predictions have gone sour. Olbermann, inexplicably, has been welcomed back by ESPN. This return, however, comes with strings attached. Olbermann is a sportscaster as well as a normal journalist, and as ESPN is a sports network, he'll be able to do that. But that's all he'll be able to do. As a condition of the deal he's signing that gives him a one-hour program on ESPN2, Olbermann is expressly forbidden from discussing politics. Bristol has seen quite enough of what happens when he's given that particular length of rope.

The natural follow-up question to anyone that follows Olbermann closely enough is, will he actually abide by the agreement. A sub-question is, can he. Sports and politics have a way of intermingling, as we've explored here before. How does Olbermann talk sports without permitting politics to eventually invade? It's possible. Most of the network manages just fine on most days. I imagine, though, that if a particular topic comes up that is politically charged, Olbermann simply won't be permitted to bring it up and will be told to stick to highlights and silliness, something closer to SportsNation than SportsCenter.

I give him three months before he blows it.

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