After leaving ESPN in 1998 Keith Olbermann is back at the network a 16 year absence. In his prime it was the duo of Olbermann and Dan Patrick that created “The Big Show,” the best combination of anchors ever to do SportsCenter.
But he and management had a big time falling out — OK, I am being kind here – it was a bloody mess for both sides. Things were so bad that it prompted one former ESPN publicist to say that Olbermann not only burned bridges, he napalmed them.
But yesterday it was all smiles as Olbermann joked that “It wasn’t quite the Paris peace accords.” But returning to the network took some creative work from both sides to get a deal done.
The network announced a new agreement with Olbermann. The new deal calls for a late-night program Monday-Friday on ESPN2, starting Monday, Aug. 26th. The show will be called Olberman, and will air on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. ET live from the ABC Times Square studios in New York City.
In a conference call with the media Olbermann I got the sense that going back to ESPN might actually be exactly what he needs at this point in his career. His track record is well known with stops at MSNBC, twice, Fox and Current TV; all ending with Olbermann leaving in some short of dispute with management.
He is often the smartest guy in the room and he knows it. No one can question Olbermann’s immense talent, his sense of humor or his ability get a quick grasp of the issues. But like another tormented sports broadcaster, the late Howard Cosell, Olbermann seems to have a problem handling success.
For the record I am an Olbermann fan and I hope this new deal with ESPN works out for both sides.
Talking with Olbermann yesterday he seemed very excited to return to ESPN. He told me about why it was important to him to get back with ESPN.
“Apart from the opportunity to try to create a nightly hour of sports television that no fan can afford to miss, I’m overwhelmed by the chance to begin anew with ESPN. I’ve been gone for 16 years and not one day in that time has passed without someone connecting me to the network. Our histories are indelibly intertwined and frankly I have long wished that I had the chance to make sure the totality of that story would be a completely positive one. I’m grateful to friends and bosses – old and new – who have permitted that opportunity to come to pass. I’m not going to waste it.”
Olbermann’s new show will focus on the day’s relevant sports topics through a mix of perspective and commentary, interviews, contributors, panel discussions and highlights. The content of the program will be sports only and don’t look for politics to creep into the program. This will be Olbermann, on sports and politics, unless it deals with sports, is not on the agenda for his new show.
So will success once again ruin Keith Olbermann?
This time I do think that things will be different, in yesterday’s media call Olbermann, was relaxed and very comfortable with the idea of returning to ESPN. As very talented and gifted a broadcaster as he is I think that he knows this show is his best and last chance to return to the top. That is reason enough for Olbermann to bring his A game each night and to stay out of trouble with the network brass.