Keith Olbermann is outspoken. He’s a genius. He’s also a pain in the ass. When he’s on his game, he might be the best sports host out there. His commentary is some of the best sports commentary around, but now, according to new reports, ESPN wants Olbermann to quit doing them. Yes, quit doing the very thing he has become known for, provocative commentary. The company has stipulated that the outspoken anchor would need to quit doing his signature commentary segments if he signed a new contract.
Or maybe not.
Olbermann’s contract is up in August, and while ESPN honcho John Skipper has consistently maintained that he wants to re-sign Olbermann, that should give him no comfort. Skipper said the same thing about Bill Simmons before unceremoniously firing him through the media.
The root of the problems seem to stem from Olbermann’s opinions on certain subjects, in particular his searing commentary about the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. It seems these commentaries have rubbed ESPN management the wrong way, and, according to the Hollywood Reporter, ESPN believes their decidedly uninteresting upcoming Monday Night Football schedule is squarely the fault of Olbermann and the aforementioned Simmons:
“And while NFL schedulers have historically worked to spread marquee matchups among its TV partners, the upcoming MNF schedule is viewed as one pointedly lacking in high-interest games, with multiple sources inside ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters believing the “terrible” schedule is “pay back for Simmons and Olbermann,” as one source put it.”
It’s not like anyone thought the reunion between Olbermann and ESPN would go without some friction. Olbermann was known as a difficult talent during his earlier ESPN run and, this followed through to his subsequent stops. Earlier this year, Olbermann was suspended for a week due to a weird exchange on Twitter with some Penn State fans. There has also been issues with management oversight of Olbermann’s show and an uneasy schedule:
“And Olbermann’s on-air commentaries — unlike his tweets — are vetted by ESPN producers who have been known to request changes, say sources. There was some frustration with his initial 11 p.m. time slot on ESPN2. Because it was preceded by live sports, his show was frequently shifted to the wee hours. At one point, Olbermann was pre-empted for several nights by women’s softball. But last September, ESPN permanently shifted Olbermann to 5 p.m.”
For ESPN, the departure of Olbermann would add to a growing list of issues with talents that the company has had this year. There was the Mike & Mike fiasco, the Jason Whitlock disaster and, of course, the acrimonious departure of the company’s biggest talent, Bill Simmons. And it appears Colin Cowherd could be heading out the door, as well:
For Olbermann, he will most likely will land on his feet somewhere. He always does. When he left ESPN, it was for Fox Sports. And when he got fired there, he went and put MSNBC on the map as the liberal counter to Fox News. He’s a unique talent in an industry that doesn’t have many originals. He will be fine.