March 4, 2013
Today, James Andrew Miller — who literally wrote the book on ESPN — reported in the New York Times that Keith Olbermann wants to return to ESPN, where he worked from 1992-1997. Olbermann, Miller writes, has made several direct and indirect overtures in recent months, including a dinner with ESPN president John Skipper:
“Keith Olbermann, both personally and through a couple people I know, reached out to say, ‘Gee, I would love to have dinner,’ ” Skipper said. “I agreed to dinner with Keith because I assumed he’d be provocative and witty and fun to have dinner with, and he was indeed lots of fun. We talked sports and politics, and we had a nice chat. He is very interesting.
“Clearly he was looking to see if there was an entry point to come back.”
Later in the story, Skipper does not seem particularly enthused about the possibility:
“After the dinner, at that point, there was no real appropriate place for Keith to come back, nor did I feel like I was prepared to bring him back,” Skipper said.
“We don’t have a policy that says we won’t bring somebody back. We’re running a great business, and when we think we can get quality content, there’s no such thing as a condemned list. That said, this is not an easy place to get back into. There are not that many successful examples of people who have come back, in part because it’s like water filling a vacuum. When somebody leaves, somebody else fills their place.”
In Skipper’s metaphorical content vacuum, Olbermann’s return would make at least some sense–he’s incredibly knowledgeable and talented. With teammate Dan Patrick, he anchored SportsCenter as well as anybody in the station’s history. Growing up in that era, the duo stands out alongside my father and Mike and the Mad Dog as those most responsible for shepherding my love of sports.
Unfortunately, a good example of Olbermann’s snarky wit and humor in reading highlights does not exist on Youtube (come on Internet, get on that), but this Mickey Mantle obituary provides a pretty good glimpse into his superb knowledge and storytelling: