Skip to comments.Ten questions for Keith Olbermann
Posted on 05/07/2014 8:28:58 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
HAVE you or Dan Patrick ever apologised for the years of lame sports-presenting imitators you set upon the world?
For nearly 20 years Ive acknowledged that if any of the worlds major religions are correct, Ill be going not (necessarily) to hell, but I will be going to purgatory. Some bureaucrat will ask me if I had ever considered the implications of opening that particular Pandoras box, and then hell tell me to go over and sit on the bench and think about what I did for a few thousand years. Im hoping I can get a seat near the aisle, maybe near Robert Oppenheimer and Philo T. Farnsworth.
Is on-screen chemistry able to be manufactured or is it natural?
Its natural, but not so in me of those ethereal telepathic ways often ascribed to it. And while it cant be manufactured, it can be enabled. As an example, Dan Patrick and I never, ever discussed with each other what we were going to say on SportsCenter. In fact we made a point of not reading each others scripts. So the key element to chemistry youre reacting in the moment to what the other person is doing or saying is preserved.
When I was a kid, I got to meet two of my idols, the radio comedy team of Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding. And one of them said that their primary goal was to make the other one crack up on air. Think of what that requires: full knowledge of what makes the other guy laugh (or sad, or angry) and an ability to make a joke that means one thing to the audience and another to your partner. Dan and I used to do that, too.
The other thing is, you must leave your egos at the door to the studio. Dan and I both have egos the size of Newfoundland, but not when it came to an individual show. Ive been with co-anchors in sports and in news who never sign on to the computer in the desk in front of them. They spend the time theyre not talking checking out their hair and make-up. I had a guy in news who used to read his story off the teleprompter and then when it said Keith hed keep reading.
Dan and I used our time not on camera to look for information to help the other guy out. We used to warn each other of breaking news stories or unfamiliar pronunciations. Literally, we slipped each other notes, sometimes as the other was reading a highlight. It was the old Jack Benny premise: I dont have to get every laugh/round of applause/bit of critical acclaim myself. If it happens on my show, Ill get enough goodwill no matter who actually said it, I need to do my best to make sure everybody gets every laugh they can.
You helped SportsCenter become a brand and much-imitated format. Ultimately, do you hope that, or your interrogation of the Bush years (on MSNBC), will be your legacy?
This assumes Ill have a legacy. But if I do, and if I could choose it, Id choose versatility. I appreciate those who do one job in one field forever our great baseball announcer Vin Scully comes to mind, or John Motson in English football. But for some reason today we deprecate people who have multiple interests or multiple career paths. In the 50s John Daly did a night-time quiz show on one network and was the nightly newscaster on another network at the same time! Mike Wallace did a dozen different things. When broadcasting started, an announcer was expected to be able to comprehend and cover the World Series, the White House, and Broadway openings. Weve lost that, and the result is a lot of people on the air who know only one field, and have no sense of how that field fits into society as a whole.
Youve returned to ESPN as sport is becoming the dominant entertainment industry. Could you have foreseen that rise back in the 90s?
You make me think of the day Dan and I got a call from a TV guide that they wanted to talk to us for an issue devoted to the top 10 shows in television and Dan said Do they want us to talk about Jerry Seinfeld? And I said, no, they probably want to do their list and then wrap it up with honourable mentions to people in sports and the like. When it turned out we were on the list we were floored. But that was one of those signs that it was beginning, that sports was to inflate and inflate and inflate. And boy is it inflated!
How is ESPN different this time around?
By the year I got there, 1992, we were all aware that the transformation was nearly complete, that ESPN had wiped out sportscasters on local TV news (remember, in 1984 I left cable sports for a huge raise and a much more prestigious job local sportscasting), and was about to do the same to newspaper and magazine sports coverage, and was positioning itself among the broadcast networks. So we knew it was big.
Compared to what ESPN is now, it turns out we were working at a corner store, only open during bankers hours, and our shows were black and white and only occasionally had sound. The place is now gigantic, and Im Rip Van Winkle blinking at all the bright lights and trying to keep my bearings amid the madding crowds.
Your MSNBC program Countdown with Keith Olbermann created plenty of enemies and fans. Did the fight energise or enervate you?
The fans, the viewers who hated the politicians, the guys on Fox they all energised me. What enervated me was something Fred Friendly once said about his experience producing Edward R. Murrows work. To paraphrase it, those external fights are wearying, but at minimum they provide you with a lot of fuel. Its the internal fight, when there are people who claim to be on your side, who benefit from your efforts, who fight you of that fight, you tire quickly. By the way, energise how on earth did we deviate on the s/z thing in so many different words?
Apparently youve been given free rein by ESPN2 to deviate from sport to pop culture or politics but you havent. Yet. Why?
I think to some degree that was misunderstood. Its a sportscast on a sports network. We will never scuttle the highlights to cover Justin Bieber or a politician. But when Bieber let himself get filmed at a hockey practice, we gave that the appropriate attention. I believe pop culture and politics were included as tools for covering sports. I could have my friends Joel McHale and Richard Lewis on to talk about sports it didnt have to be ex-players or staff analysts. And on politics when it came to the Olympics, I was not required to focus primarily on results or to any degree on results. I could spend 20 minutes in the first week covering the horror of the city of Sochi killing dogs on the street, dogs who for the most part became strays because they were abandoned because their owners homes were flattened to make room for something as inconsequential as the Olympics.
In one recent Olbermann episode, you referenced comedians Bill Hicks and George Carlin separately. Youre obviously a keen student of comedy?
Yes. First day at my college radio station, 1975, I asked the training director if I could work in both the sports and comedy departments. She seemed very surprised that she had to explain to me they didnt have a comedy department. So I just melded the two together. There are a few athletes Ive gotten to meet Ali, Mickey Mantle, a runner named Abel Kiviat who was Jim Thorpes roommate at the 1912 Olympics, if you can imagine that and the experiences were a genuine thrill. But the rest of them couldnt hold a candle to meeting George, or John Cleese and Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, or Mort Sahl.
Hows your relationship, if any, with writer Aaron Sorkin? Despite his denials, his two series Sports Night and The Newsroom seem, well, familiar.
Actually I interviewed Aaron once, for Esquire, soon after Sports Night started. And I said I had heard various stories about the origin of the series and he answered, You are the origin. I think that pretty much sums it up.
Youre big and prolific on Twitter. How has that changed your relationship to the audience?
I should read more and respond less. It is invaluable and instantaneous insight into what electrifies your audience and what doesnt. I like the permeability it has created in the audience/announcer wall. And on a more professional level, it is like having immediate access to 150 different versions of the Associated Press wire. As a guy who started at United Press International, I like knowing where the info is.
Youve made up with one former employer, ESPN. Is there anyone else you feel you should break bread with?
Actually, my career is filled with making up with former employers. I worked at CNN from 81 to 84 and went back in 2001. I was at NBC in 97 and 98 and went back in 2003. This is actually my third stint at ESPN, insomuch as I came back to co-host Dans radio show from 05 to 07. People make a big deal about the admittedly very loud exits; its always struck me as curious that they take almost no note of the fact that at each of these networks (and several other organisations to which Ive returned) there has been a tacit invitation for me to explore coming back if I should ever want to come back.
How many times can one person name-drop in less than 1,700 words?
You are the WORST Human ever. Just sayin'
Dare I say it?
I enjoyed Olbermann as a sportscaster and I even get a kick out of him now on his new show! I cant believe I’m saying this! I hated that SOB traitor with the heat of a thousand suns!
Dare I say I agree with you?
Dan and Keith were a huge highlight of 1990s television — I even bought their book— “The Big Show” — which was a good read.
And I’ve caught an episode or two of Keith’s new sports show, and greatly enjoyed it.
It’s almost like Olbermann went completely out of his mind in the 2000s and rediscovered his sanity a year or two ago.
Of course, there’s always the possibility he will relapse!
Yep! I hear ya! The guys talented but a complete IDIOT when it comes to politics!
I hear this punk has a show on ESPN. Didn’t they once say he was no longer allowed on their property?
He’s an assh### and I would never complain or make any acknowledgement that he even exists to ESPN. With bad ratings He will get to the point of saying outrageous crap just so people will react and get him eyeballs. His show is crap and I’ll never give him a chance to ever make a dime off of me as a viewer. He hates everything I love about our country and he would surely be happy if every Christian or conservative were killed or imprisoned.
I tell anybody that hates this traitorous douche bag to NEVER write or contact the network about him or his show.... Just ignore and “nothing” him. Make him totally absent from any thing that you see on the screen. If he turned up penniless, cold and stiff by the side of the road I’d just look and see if hopefully Dan Rather was laying under him.
Of course they hired Keith back: his politics are exactly the same as theirs, he's just less subtle than the rest of the idiots on that channel are.