Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Rant: Replace Keith Olbermann on "Sunday Night Football"

Note: Beginning each Friday, I will take a break from my Gopher-related coverage and post a rant about a random topic. It will largely be sports-related and may include some Minnesota-based content.

In an October post, I outed myself as a conservative. In the same post, I blasted the NFL, specifically NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith and Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay, for their comments about wanting to keep Rush Limbaugh from joining a group looking to buy the St. Louis Rams. Limbaugh ended up being tossed out of the group once scrutiny of comments never uttered by Rush but reported as fact by various media outlets became commonplace. The point was that the NFL was no place for someone who was controversial.

In fact, Irsay put it best when he uttered:
"....When there are comments that have been made and are inappropriate, incendiary, and insensitive.....our words do damage, and it's something we do not need."

Why then is the NFL a place for the comments of one Keith Olbermann? The former popular ESPN anchor has been the host of MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" since 2003. The show is a news commentary program which reports what Olbermann deems the biggest news stories of the day in reverse order, although the ones reported first tend to be hard news stories which warrant the most analysis. The network as a whole has a decidedly center-left bias, and Olbermann's show is no exception. Regular guests of the program include liberals Howard Fineman (Newsweek), Jonathan Alter (Newsweek), and Rachel Maddow.
In Olbermann's mind, George Bush and Dick Cheney still occupy the White House, given the amount of negative coverage given to the former President and Vice President. With the "Worst Person in the World" segment, Olbermann selects whom he happens to hate the most on a given day, often conservatives like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, or Laura Ingraham, not to mention Bush and Cheney.

The incendiary dialogue used by Olbermann and his guests marginalizes conservative thought and is completely controversial. Consider, for example, this gem:
"the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party,"
Or, this snippet from an article by National Review's Stephen Spruiell.
"But Olbermann's most incredible performance by far came after Bill Clinton's outburst during his interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace. When Wallace asked Clinton why he hadn't done more to connect the dots and stop al-Qaeda, Clinton accused Wallace of doing 'Fox's bidding ... your nice little conservative hit job on me.' Olbermann took it a step farther. In his telling, Wallace was not only 'a monkey posing as a newscaster,' but also a 'proxy' whose 'sandbag effort' had been orchestrated by the Bush White House. What's more, Clinton was 'brave' for standing up to this 'smear by proxy,' and he 'told the great truth untold about [the Bush] administration's negligence.' Naturally, Olbermann quoted 'Eric Blair, writing as George Orwell,' and elucidated the many parallels between America under the Bush administration and the totalitarian dystopia described in 1984."
He belittles all who dare disagree with him on a nightly basis, has few, if any, opposing viewpoints on his show, and operates a divisive program.
As Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz pointed out:
"He {Olbermann} positions his program as an increasingly liberal alternative to the 'O'Reilly Factor' and frequently bestows on 'Bill-O' his "Worst Person in the World" award."
O'Reilly still smokes Olbermann in the ratings, and it's fine that Olbermann provides this service to his viewers. But, does he really need to be part of NBC's "Sunday Night Football" telecast?
The pregame show is co-hosted by Olbermann and former SportsCenter colleague Dan Patrick. Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, and Tiki Barber provide color commentary and analysis in the studio, and Bob Costas provides ego from the game site. Patrick is capable enough of carrying the studio on his own without Olbermann's input, and Costas could probably do the entire show by himself in his own mind.
Of course, NBC may be required to have Olbermann do this broadcast via some provision in his contract. Who knows? However, the NFL sells broadcast rights for its games and probably has some say about who can grace the airwaves leading into their games. NBC and the NFL clearly have no problem allowing someone with a record of toxic remarks toward over 50% of this country actively participating in its pregame show. However, if a conservative commentator like Rush Limbaugh wants to buy 1% of a football team, we're all of the sudden about unity. The NFL is having it both ways.
Could one imagine the backlash if Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, or another conservative talker on the dais of the Fox NFL pregame show? Yet, Keith Olbermann manages to occupy such a seat despite his divisive remarks on his cable show. Of course, he may be the only broadcaster in America who can make Bob Costas seem humble.


  1. Don't forget Rush got aced out on MNF.

  2. The Rush experiment on NFL Countdown on ESPN was nixed after Rush was controverial - which is what they brought him in to do. Olbermann tries to pass as a legitimate sports journalist on the NBC pregame show and then hosts an inflammatory cable show in his other life. Gotta love how some can have it both ways....