One week after ESPN announced it had signed Keith Olbermann to host a weekday late-night show on ESPN2, the guy who’d been savaging the place since it showed him the door nearly two decades back came to the Summer TCA Press Tour and said the reunion was practically inevitable and it had been a great place to work. “The reality is that whatever I have thought of ESPN when I worked there — and I thought I had a pretty good perspective about the place — I didn’t know what I was talking about,” he told TV critics and reporters in the room. “The places I went afterwards made ESPN look like a Let’s Applaud Keith session for five years.” Back in 2007 — a decade after he left ESPN — he told Dave Letterman, “ I don’t burn bridges, I burn rivers. You burn a bridge, you can possibly build a new bridge. When there’s no river anymore, that’s a lot of trouble.” On Wednesday, however, he said if you burn a bridge, “take the tunnel.”
One of those Worse Than ESPN places at which he labored — Current TV — was so bad, comparing ESPN to it was like comparing “color TV to radio.”
He had a million of ‘em. The critics lapped it up.
ESPN’s announcement of Olbermann’s return was surprising, given the nastiness of that exit. Not long before he left, ESPN suspended him for two weeks for nicking the Disney-owned sports network during an appearance on The Daily Show. Olbermann later declared he had “too much backbone” to work there; the feeling was mutual, and ESPN expunged any trace of Olbermann from its 25th anniversary SportsCenter “Reunion Week.” There is no contractual clause in his contract that precludes his talking about politics on the new show, Olbermann, as had been reported, he insisted. He acknowledged that when the announcement was made last week, he said it was not his intention to talk politics, “for the simple reason it’s a sports show. … If Barack Obama runs on to the field in an all-star game, I will have to talk about the ramifications of that for the game and also of his political career.” He added, “It’s been wonderful not talking about politics.” (Current TV sacked him in March 2012 and replaced him with Eliot Spitzer.) “I did it for 10 years … and if there’s anything you’d like to do after that kind of experience, it’s a sportscast. … It was a lot of work and it took a lot out of me, and it was often not that much fun,” he said of his time at MSNBC and Current TV. That said, some of his franchise bits from his political shows will be migrated to Olbermann when it debuts on August 26. It will include a segment called “The Worst Sports Person in The World,” he noted. “People kinda liked that one -– even people who were not into the political game.”
TV critics baited Olbermann with political questions during his Q&A session, like they were playing some kind of parlor game. And he did actually dodge a Rush Limbaugh question. But when one of them asked him for his thoughts on New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, he shot back, “I think he stole a great fake hotel sign-in name I would have liked to have used,” and promised he would find a way to work “Carlos Danger” in his first sportscast.