I purposely budgeted my time yesterday to be in front of the TV at 5:00PM EST to watch Keith Olbermann’s return to the air after his 4-day suspension from ESPN. I was curious to see how he would “handle” the cause for his suspension and – truth be told – there was a part of me that wondered if watching the first day back might be the same as watching a self-immolation. As everyone here knows by now, I am not a fan of Keith Olbermann’s politics and more specifically I am not a fan of his views on Penn State University which caused the suspension, but I do believe that he is an enormously talented TV host/persona and I enjoy watching his program.
Some have assessed his apology and his discussion of the events leading to his suspension as “contrite” while others called it all “bizarre”. Here is a link to one assessment that has the apologia embedded within the article so you can view it for yourself. For me the apology came off as sincere.
I mention all of this because I want to make a larger point about Keith Olbermann and his current tenure with ESPN. Olbermann has been a controversial TV presence for at least a decade now; before that he and Dan Patrick were commonly regarded as TV trailblazers in sports. People watch Olbermann for a variety of personal reasons, but one of those reasons is that he does/says outrageous things. When ESPN re-hired him, they knew what he did on TV and they hired him to do more of that.
It is precisely for that reason that I believe that those folks who called for Olbermann to be fired for what he Tweeted last week – or that he should be boiled in oil before being fired – are way off base. If an organization (ESPN) hires a hit man (Keith Olbermann in the most figurative sense here), then the hiring organization cannot be offended or shocked or moved to righteous indignation when he does something outrageous.
I have used these kinds of analogies before but they bear repeating here:
If you hire Howard Stern to give the commencement address at your college, you cannot then be offended or outraged when he makes a gratuitous reference to his penis in his remarks. It is what he does; you had to know it when you invited him to come; you should have expected it.
If you hire Rev Jesse Jackson to come and give a speech to your professional society meeting, you cannot then be offended or outraged when he throws in a bunch of irrelevant rhyming sequences in his speech. It is what he does; you had to know it when you invited him to come; you should have expected it.
If you hire Don Rickles to headline a show, you cannot then be surprised and shocked when he insults people in the audience. It is what he does …
Keith Olbermann provides edgy commentary with regard to sports programming and he has always in the past gone over the boundary line of good taste once in a while. Hiring him and giving him a regular program comes with that foreknowledge and putting him on the air says that some of the blowback is acceptable. What Olbermann tweeted last week was completely inappropriate and blockheaded but it does not come close to being a “firing offense” in my mind.
Some folks have tried to turn this situation into a “discussion” with a political backdrop – and of course, the politics behind all of this is conspiratorial. Forgetting completely the political differences between Keith Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh, there is very little similarity in the events that led Limbaugh to be fired from his “football commentary job” and Olbermann being allowed to continue in his “sports commentary job”. The fundamental difference is demonstrated competence in the sports commentary field for a LONG time prior to the incendiary incident. Olbermann has it; Limbaugh did not.
Here is some level of solace for those folks who love Rush Limbaugh and fervently want to see Keith Olbermann separated from his seat in front of an ESPN camera as Limbaugh was:
History says that one of these days, Keith Olbermann will get so far out on a limb that even his prodigious talent will not be sufficient to assure that he has a soft landing on the rocks below. History says he will eventually crash and burn.
With a little patience, the Limbaugh crowd will have a happy day sometime in the future…
I am one of those folks who happens to enjoy watching college basketball more than I enjoy watching regular-season NBA basketball. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot does not agree with me and we have had – over the years – more than a few e-mail exchanges explaining our differing points of view on this subject. He has not convinced me of his rectitude and I am confident that I have not changed his mind even a little bit. However, I would like to offer into evidence a report from Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. In a column that focuses on NBA matters, Dempsey leads the column with this:
“A fourth-quarter huddle late in the Nuggets’ 104-82 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday broke with this phrase: ‘1-2-3 … six weeks!’
“As in six weeks to go until the end of the season. That’s 24 games, 46 days and 1,152 minutes away.
“Tax day, April 15, is getaway day: the last day of the Nuggets’ season. Rest assured, there are players who are already counting.”
Here is a link to the column to give you assurance that I am not cherry-picking this commentary.
There are about 350 colleges that play Division 1 basketball. I doubt there is a team that is winless out there because if there were, I would have read articles about their uber-futility this year and I have not. Nonetheless, there have to be a half-dozen schools who have only won 1 or 2 games since the season started back around Thanksgiving. However, I doubt that those teams – with zero chance of making it to a post-season tournament of any type – would be breaking the huddle with anything akin to “1,2,3 … next week”.
Finally, since I pointed out a point of disagreement between Bob Molinaro and me, let me offer up an issue on which we agree completely:
“A bad joke: Among the finalists for this year’s Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame class is a celebrated active college coach who has had two Final Four trips vacated by the NCAA as a result of his players later being ruled ineligible. This is an unparalleled dubious achievement that not even the rascally Jerry Tarkanian (HOF, Class of ’13) was able to match. John Calipari says he’s humbled by his nomination. He should be. But the people responsible for it should be embarrassed.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………