Saturday, January 05, 2008

Confession Of An Ex-Olbermann Fan

I used to be a fan of Keith Olbermann. When he was co-host of SportsCenter on ESPN with Dan Patrick, Olbermann made delivery of sports highlights must-see viewing. Olbermann had a wit and sharpness to his delivery that was infectious, funny, and clever. Consider this quote from his coverage of the Patriots-Steelers 1996 AFC Divisional Playoff matchup, held in a fog-shrouded Foxboro Stadium -

"The story goes that quarterback Drew Bledsoe of the Patriots met one of his fans in a restaurant one night and as the man was introducing himself Bledsoe said, 'Oh yeah, I know you, you sit in the 14th row behind the west endzone, I'd know you anywhere....I've seen you in the gamefilms, too, you're right above my line of vision.' You knew that someday with total recall like that Bledsoe would explode in a huge game. At Foxboro, Son Of Fogbowl - 'I can't see that fan.'"

Later he got out of a verbal slipup with flying colors -

"Watch Rod Woodsen, who's forgotten his Niners, er, Miner's helmet, or his Niners helmet, or his Steelers helmet."

With the Patriots salting away a 28-3 smashing of the Steelers we saw footage of a disconsolate Woodsen, Bill Parcells and Curtis Martin hugging in triumph, and owner Bob Kraft celebrating with stadium fans -

"Rod Woodsen back and bummed, while Bill Parcells and Curtis Martin are extremely happy, and then in the stands, I liked the team so much I kissed the owner and the security guy said, 'Hey hey hey, there'll be plenty of time for that later on!'"

Olbermann even made dry recitation of facts interesting listening, as when he noted in 1996 of a Miami Dolphins win over the Indianapolis Colts where Dan Marino set a new NFL quarterbacking record and Olbermann noted it was the first time he won a game in setting such a record, noting Marino had lost 1995 games where he set new records for touchdowns, yardage, and completions, with the irony that two of those losses were to the Colts.

Such was entertaining viewing, and when Olbermann left SportsCenter I was disappointed. Even today I still miss that wit and cleverness that he brought to sportscasting, a wit and ingenuity he brought when he worked for FOX Sports, first teamed with Kevin Frazier 1999-2000, then with his short-lived Sunday late-night wrapup show, The Keith Olbermann Evening News.

But I sensed something wrong with him at the end of his FOX show; in the show's final episode in late April 2001 he ominously reported on the Daytona International Speedway worker who claimed (falsely) that Dale Earnhardt's belt was not cut when he was found in the car, inferring that NASCAR had manufactured the cut to cover up any role of theirs in his death. The way he reported this was incendiary, enough that when his show was not renewed, it seemed that such incendiary reporting was a contributing factor.

Since then he has devoted his telecasting to his MSNBC show other than a periodic guest-hosting stint with Dan Patrick on Patrick's now-defunct ESPN Radio afternoon drive show - this stint brought back some of the old Dan & Keith vinegar - and the incendiary quality he displayed in the final broadcast of his FOX show has been so common that an entire blog has been created to track his serial falsity and this look at Keith's ten lies of 2007 is the perfect place to start examining the serial falsity with which he has infected television news.

It shows what kind of fraud Olbermann truly has been and shows how much his genuine broadcasting talent has been wasted. The story goes he struck his head on a subway in 1980 and this affected him to the point he cannot drive a car. One has to wonder if such an injury affected his critical judgement as well.

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