Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Getting KO'd

Olbermann back on ESPN pontificating on everything in sight

  • Print

Keith OLBERMANN'S back and he knows you missed him during all those long months since he quit his Current TV gig (or years since he left MSNBC), even if you didn't know it yourself. And so on Monday night he returned to ESPN (and TSN2) where, he will be happy to remind you every eight minutes or so, he helped found ESPN2 and perfect SportsCenter.

He named this ESPN2 show Olbermann, as if he were an iconic motor company or a beer, and opened it in classic Olbermann-ic style. "As I was saying," he greeted the camera, that careful quirk of a smile punctuating a pickup line so smugly flirtatious it could have been lifted from season 1 of The Newsroom, which Olbermann claims to have inspired (though not season 2, which is slightly less smug, certainly less flirtatious, and better.)

And then he was off on a 10-minute, breathless rattling rant about New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and his decision to play quarterback Mark Sanchez in an exhibition game during which he was injured. Well, not so much a discussion of the incident as of the coverage of it, starting with a New York Daily News reporter's tweet that Ryan should be fired, which led to a spurious feeding frenzy and, according to Olbermann, the death of reporting in America (cue, literally, a headstone with "Reporting" engraved on it).

So, nothing overstated or sensational.

During his searing indictment of American media (he knows he's part of it, right -- the media?) and popular culture, Olbermann managed to reference Miley Cyrus, Chris Christie, President Obama and I think Brigadoon, though that may have come later. He couldn't quite bring himself to mention Sharknado (oh, but it's lonely on the high road), though he did.

And honestly, this may be worth a Peabody or at least a Kids Choice Award -- he managed to pointedly correct the misconception that Will Smith and family had been caught on camera at the VMAs slack-jawed with horror over Miley twerking. Internet-fuelled urban myth! They were really slack-jawed with horror over Lady Gaga's performance, Olbermann revealed.

So glad we got that straightened out.

Olbermann wasn't just rehashing a now-five-day-old story about an exhibition-game injury to prove he knows how to accurately caption a VMA photo. He was using it as an Important Example of the Devolution of Journalism in the Internet Age.

"Even in this time of media madness," he said, hitting his signature syncopated syllables like any good preacher, Shakespearean actor or snake-oil salesman, "where controversy has replaced reporting and at least one dying medium is doing anything short of armed robbery to get a dollar out of you, Rex Ryan must be wondering just what on God's gangrened Earth is happening to him."

Of course he has a point. Olbermann always has a point, which he makes by swinging admirably through garlands of verbiage like Tarzan through the jungle vines. He's just having too much fun to realize the jungle is a sound stage and the vines have been placed to ensure maximum swingage.

While KO (as he was referred to throughout the night by graphic devices announcing the various guests) was railing against the dangers of social-media sound bites, chasing clicks, manufacturing controversy and the quest to self-brand, he was doing pretty much all those things: poking the Daily News (a famously contentious publication), rerunning and scathingly narrating news conferences, both empowering and lambasting Twitter (#haveitbothways) and generally mashing up his subject matter into such an unrecognizable stew it could only be identified by one term: Olbermann.

Then he trotted out Jason Whitlock, who is black, and asked him to say a few words about racism.

OK, first they talked a bit about the life of the star athlete in the dog-eat-dog world of digital journalism -- "We're all just fodder to be eaten and used to prop up someone else's relevance," Whitlock said. But then they somehow segued to race, which allowed Whitlock to imagine Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking only to black athletes and chastising them for forgetting their roots.

"So much of the culture is build up your Twitter feed, your celebrity, your platform," he said. "The whole popular culture is so individualist, so denigrating to black masses as a whole."

Actually, that is pretty smart, as was much of what Whitlock had to say. His appearance and their conversation was, in fact, the high point of the hour. Still, some of its power was lost in its blatant positioning (hey, isn't it the anniversary of the March on Washington or something?) and the fact it was followed by features including "Keith Lights," an overly narrated series of sports clips, many of them quite funny. And "This Week in Keith History" didn't help much either.

It is probably not a great idea to argue against the snark-factor, speculative nature and bite-sizafication of bloggy/tweety news when you have a feature called "The Worst Person in the Sports World" (a retread of the Current TV "Worst Person the World"), in which you deride people for their spelling mistakes and make a big deal out of the Farmers Almanac predicting a disastrous snowstorm for this year's Super Bowl. Though you have to love the Farmers Almanac reference.

There was also an interview with Mark Cuban that was mostly a rehash of his appearance on Leno, and a feature called "Time Marches On," which shows Instagram and YouTube videos of athletes, some famous, some not, doing odd things.

All of which was presented in high Olbermann fashion, that tangy mix of self-deprecation and utter arrogance, truth-telling and self-indulgent horse hockey, the poetic and the morbidly self-righteous.

He is truly an embodiment of opposing forces, evoking same -- you love him, you hate him, you hate to love him or love to hate him; it doesn't matter. He's honestly just happy you're watching him talk.

In other words, he hasn't changed a bit.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2013 B8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

WRHA says discrimination contributed to Brian Sinclair's death

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Perfect Day- Paul Buteux walks  his dog Cassie Tuesday on the Sagimay Trail in Assiniboine Forest enjoying a almost perfect  fall day in Winnipeg- Standup photo – September 27, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who should get more playing time in Jets net?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google