I’m going to say something I thought I’d never say: I love to watch Olbermann. As in Keith Olbermann, the cantankerous former ESPN, former MSNBC, former Current TV, current ESPN host, who is back on the big four letter’s air waives and demonstrating why he was so good at it for so long ago.
If you’re not familiar with any other incarnation of Olbermann other than his political punditry, then let me help broaden your view. In the early to mid-90’s Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick were appointment viewing on Sportscenter. This was a period of time before Stuart Scott practiced MMA on the air and certainly before the show was sponsored by whichever Fast and Furious movie was set to drop. The two were funny, knowledgeable, and witty. They had chemistry, certainly a fair piece more than Kevin Neghandi and Hannah Storm. Olbermann was the headline act once the network opened up the deuce. He wore a leather jacket because that was “edgy”. Sportscenter is still struggling with “edgy.”
He left the big four letter because Olbermann has tastes outside of a weeknight Pacers/Bucks’ game and went to MSNBC. Once there he became as polarizing as any political commentator on television. If you were a liberal you loved him. Great, so do I! I hate global warming and guns and stuff. If you were a conservative you hated him. Awesome, me too! I’m totes for fiscal responsibility and State’s rights. Apparently his surly disposition didn’t make many friends, and to be honest his ratings didn’t either. He left there to go to Al Gore’s Current TV. I can’t tell you what went on at Current and neither can anyone else because it was as easy to find as FS2.
Now he’s back on the airwaves with his own show. Geniously whittled down to just him, in Times Square, with a very few guests. Olbermann does what he does best, editorialize sports and present highlights in a high toned, self effacing, smart manner that will somehow make you want to read books and stuff. It’s deliciously boiled down to the essentials. No panel discussions, no telestrator, no celebrity cameos, just sports news and opinion. His punditry is limited to things that matter, i.e. the Redskins nickname, paying NCAA athletes, and A-Rod, all done with intelligence and preparation. Even if you don’t agree with the opinion it must be noted that it is typically well thought out.
His guests are usually ESPN hacks, but who appear to be universally afraid or at least respectful of Mr. Olbermann. This may be a well-earned reaction based on the evidence of his other stops. Olbermann is notoriously hard to work with and apparently stops at nothing to get his way. If “Olbermann” the show is his way, then by all means let him get it. It’s refreshing and informative in a way that Sportscenter hasn’t been in a decade and that FS1 hasn’t gotten close to in a month of existence.
While he does entertain guests, make no mistake, this is his party from start to finish. Confined to sports, that’s a very good thing. The key to the show seems to be that Olbermann isn’t beholden to anyone or any entity. He takes dead aim at his old/new employer as often as he does Mark Sanchez or Mark Emmert. He also enjoys a media take down or two. ESPN has thus far, other than deleting a few minutes of a podcast for some reason, apparently let Olbermann self edit. This is to our great benefit. The show appears spontaneous enough and fun, you can even hear what I assume are producers and camera people laughing in the background. I’m laughing too.
Enjoy it while you can because chances are one of two things will happen: Either Olbermann will once again get tired of Brewers/Mets’ highlights and bolt for another political venture or ESPN, in all its Tebowy wisdom, will start to tinker with the product until it become, sigh, just like everything else.
Until then you might want to enjoy what’s happening nightly on ESPN. Do it quick before someone comes along and screws it up.