If you burn a bridge, you can possibly build a new bridge, but if there's no river any more, that's a lot of trouble ~ Keith Olbermann (dob 1/27/1959) muses on his 1997 departure from ESPN's SportsCenter during a 6/27/2007 appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.
It was on 5/18/2011 that I announced that I was dedicating a stand alone page on my blog to Keith Olbermann, a man I described as "my hero". Furthermore I noted that he was individual that "I blindly worship". This was (in part) a humorous retort to certain individuals on another blog who chided me with taunts regarding my "man crush" on Mr. Olbermann. Seeing as I am not the kind of person to let the judgments of others stop me from speaking forcefully in regards to idea, causes or people I believe in, I incorporated the "man crush" insult into the commentary that accompanied my shrine.
I didn't take the bait in other words. Instead I said YES in regards to the man crush, going so far as to label it "intense", but adding that it was "strictly platonic"... because I'm straight (although not homophobic). I would admit it if the man crush were something I fantasized about becoming physical.
But now it is official... Keith Olbermann has returned to sports commentary at ESPN2 with a program that will be titled "Olbermann" (and begin broadcasting on 8/26/2013). The first I heard about a possible return to sports announcing concerned Keith asking ESPN prez John Skipper if they'd take him back. The stories implied that Keith's overtures were rebuffed. A 7/16/2013 NYT article says "some ESPN insiders... voiced the opinion that Olbermann was part of the network's past, not its future". Others felt that "his star quality is almost unmatched in the sports television arena" and for that reason "he seems to draw a crowd". So they took him back, but his new contract "explicitly forbids him from discussing political matters".
Also, the job at ESPN is just one of two talking-about-baseball jobs recently landed by Keith. A 7/12/2013 NY Daily News story says, "last month, Turner Sports hired him to host its Major League Baseball postseason studio show on TBS". The Daily News does wonder why TBS allowed Keith to take a job with a competitor (if they did allow it. Could TBS be the next employer to fire Keith?).
Whatever the situation, Keith says "it's tremendous to be back in baseball", and that may be true, but not from my perspective. The world of sports is somewhere I will absolutely not follow Keith, despite my being a huge fan. I am a fan of his punditry. I am not a fan of any kind of sport or commentary on sport, no matter who the commentator is. Although if I were forced to watch one sport, baseball is one that I would find less objectionable.
In a comment on this very blog a notorious Keith-hater and annoying dumbass whose Blogger ID is "Rusty Shackelford" declared that "they are taking bets in Las Vegas when he will be fired". I have no idea if this is for reals or if Rusty is making a joke. Either way I seriously do not care. Given his history I think Keith will probably mind his P's and Q's. That, and how much trouble can you get in talking about sports?
On the other hand Keith does have a history of "feuding" with the ESPN bosses much like he clashed with the management at MSNBC (Phil Griffin) and Current (Joel Hyatt and David Bohrman). If it was any one specific person that Keith had disagreements with at CNN (and if that person or persons still work there) I do not know (nor do I particularly care). Wikipedia says, "his former bosses remarked he had too much backbone". I noted in past commentaries that Griffin and Hyatt are both "corporate Democrats" and guessed that was the reason why Keith got the boot. But it clearly couldn't have been Keith's political views that got him into trouble at ESPN. (Note: ESPN's John Skipper wasn't there when Keith was fired).
So the possibility that he could be fired again can't be dismissed outright. I'd be surprised though. Keith obviously had to make some promises (including no discussing politics) to get back in with ESPN. Who would be dumb enough to blow another second chance? The Keith-haters are convinced Keith is just that dumb. Or that his ego is just too big for him not to piss off the brass. This is the second time a network has welcomed Keith back into the fold (Keith hosted "The Big Show" on MSNBC from 1997–1998 and Countdown from 2003–2011). The second time around Keith lasted 8 years at MSNBC, so I think speculations of a quick firing at ESPN2 are premature.
With ESPN Keith has apparently rebuilt the bridge AND the restored the river. A ThinkProgress article titled "Keith Olbermann's return to ESPN is crazy and probably brilliant" says Keith "played [a big role] in shaping the sports entertainment behemoth we know as ESPN today". So that is TWO networks that owe many thanks to Keith for making them what they are. He has his detractors, but obviously he also has his fans (The sports commentary fans and political punditry fans being largely in two separate categories, I think). This is why he keeps getting hired (and rehired).
At any rate, that there shall be no more political commentary from Keith marks the end of an era. Yes, he has been absent for some time, but this new gig cements the fact that Keith is likely finished punditing forever (or for a number of years, certainly). Keith, as I just pointed out, is responsible for making MSNBC what it is today. I've heard that MSNBC has been experiencing declining ratings ever since Keith left. Instead of firing him Phil Griffin should have gotten down on his knees and kissed Keith's posterior.
Joel Hyatt (Current) should have allowed Keith to run things as he saw fit, as per the agreement Keith was hired under... an agreement that named Keith "Chief News Officer" and gave him an "equity stake". Instead Hyatt butted in and forced out Mark Rosenthal. It was under CEO Mark Rosenthal that Olberman was recruited... and everything was hunky-dory until Current co-founder (along with Al Gore) Hyatt decided he wanted to switch from "hands off" to "hands on". It was after that decision (and Rosenthal's departure) that everything went down hill.
But all that is in the past now. Current TV will soon be transformed into Al Jazeera America due to the sellout Al Gore deciding to take the money and run (Al Jazeera paid 500 million for Current; Al Gore's take is estimated to be 70 million). Perhaps it was a wise decision, as Current wasn't doing that great in the ratings, but who knows what would have happened if they had not foolishly and abruptly canned Keith? Perhaps Keith could have built up Current just like he did ESPN and MSNBC? I like Current and watch it 6 hours every week day (Stephanie Miller for 3 hours, and The Young Turks, Viewpoint with John Fugelsang, and Joy Behar's Say Anything for 1 hour each).
Now, there are reports that Gore was initially opposed to selling his station to a network funded by oil money (oh, the hypocrisy!). A 3/16/2013 HuffPo article says investment banker, spouse of Dianne Feinstein, and Current TV board member/investor Richard Blum was gung-ho for the sale. He worried that the network would go under and his money would be lost. I wondered if the decision to get rid of Keith might in any way be connected to the decision to sell, but it looks like the dates don't line up. Keith was dismissed at the end of March 2012 and the Current deal began to take shape in July of 2012 (3+ months later).
But the sale was (apparently) the reason why Current decided to settle instead of going to court. On 3/14/2013 The New York Times reported that Current and Olbermann "were locked in a legal stalemate that might have lasted years if not for Gore's startling decision last December to sell the money-losing Current to Al Jazeera". Keith was seeking the entire 50 million dollars he was promised when he signed his 5-year deal with Current. The NYT says Keith was awarded 5 million via binding arbitration.
So, not as good a result for Keith as when MSNBC paid him his full salary of 7 million dollars for each of the two years remaining on his contract when they parted ways... and he didn't even have to sue to get it! Maybe that is why the NYT titled their story "Current unfair"? The Conservative NewsBusters story (a re-reporting of what the NYT reported) refers to Keith as the "whiney deranged former MSNBC anchor". Then NewsBusters says the trial might have been fun to watch, but no worries, because there may be another the next time Keith is fired (Ha, ha, ha).
If I had to guess I'd say Keith's new salary is a lot less, but I could be wrong, seeing as the show will be titled "Olbermann". But I really have no idea how much sports commentators are paid. In any case, I think it is time to wrap this post up by saying that even though I shall never watch Keith on the TV so long as sports casting is his gig, I still wish him luck in his return to his former career.
After a 16-year absence Keith is back at ESPN. ESPN says they expect more fans tuning in for Keith than people tuning out due to their not liking him for political reasons. So this might be a gain for fans of baseball but it is surely a loss for the fans of Keith's political punditry (such as myself). We will miss him greatly and mourn the end of Mr. Olbermann's outstanding career as the world's leading progressive commentator. This is, in my strong opinion, a loss for the entire political Left.
Keith Olbermann Career Highlights
 Co-Anchor (with Dan Patrick) of ESPN's daily sports newsprogram SportsCenter, 1992–1997. FIRED (1st gig With ESPN).
 Anchor of MSNBC's The Big Show, 1997–1998 FIRED (1st gig with MSNBC).
 Host of Major League Baseball on Fox, 1999–2000.
 Anchor of The Keith Olbermann Evening News... a Fox Sports Net show designed to challenge SportsCenter, 1998–2001. FIRED.
 Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, 2003–2011. FIRED (2nd MSNBC gig).
 Co-host of NBC's Football Night in America, 2007–2010. Stepped down to focus on Countdown.
 Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Current TV 2011-2012. FIRED (Total Time doing Countdown: approx 9yrs).
 Host of ESPN2's "Olbermann". 8/26/2013-7/24/2015 (2nd ESPN gig: Contract not renewed, although some say he was fired).
 Host of TBS Major League Baseball postseason studio show, October 2013.
Update 7/19/2015: On 7/10/2015, two days after ESPN declined to renew his expiring contract, Olbermann announced on air that the series would be coming to an end on July 24. The announcement came after The Hollywood Reporter claimed that ESPN wanted Olbermann to tone down his critical commentary, but the network claimed the move was to cut costs related to Olbermann's salary and the use of the space at Times Square Studios.