Media notebook: Keith Olbermann builds new bridge at Turner

By George M. Thomas
Beacon Journal sports writer

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CNN. ESPN. FOX. MSNBC. ESPN Radio. NBC. Current TV.

Email if I forgot any. If there is one man in broadcast journalism that has nine lives, it’s Keith Olbermann.

He has been a player in sports journalism and news journalism. He has started many bonfires from the bridges that he has burned during the course of his career travels.

And although he has worked for Turner Sports, the entity that feeds TBS and TNT, before, it escaped what some might call his bonfire of vanity. Turner announced earlier this week that Olbermann would be returning to a role on television in hosting the cable giant’s baseball postseason studio show. He will join Dennis Eckersley and Ron Darling.

It’s a nice get for the channel to be the exclusive home to both wild card games, all four Division Series and the National League Championship Series.

“I’ll say two things. Apart from the opportunity I now get to work with people I have known from past positions, like Lenny Daniels [EVP & COO, Turner Sports] and Tim Kiely [vice president & executive producer of production, Turner Sports], apart from that and apart from coming back to this great organization, it is tremendous to be back in baseball,” Olbermann said. “This is a great bunch of people,[and I’m] really looking forward to working with them. I’m delighted to be back because baseball abides.”

Even when he plied his trade in political commentary on his MSNBC and later Current TV show Countdown with Keith Olbermann, his adoration for baseball remained at the forefront. That in itself makes this a natural fit for him, he said.

“Baseball is my passion …on a professional level, this is great for me because it’s what I do,” he said. “Last season, I did this at home to the TV by myself. Now, there will be people watching, I’ll get paid for it and I get to wear a tie rather than sitting around in my uniform pretending to be a player. The other part is, as I said, there are so many old friends involved.”

But can Olbermann, who some viewed as left of Lenin, resist the urge to return to political talk even now? He said he’s beyond predicting what his career path will be. Given the track record that’s wise. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return.

What Bill O’Reilly is to political commentary on the right, Olbermann was to those on the left and commanded a loyal following. It’s his bosses who could never get past a personality that many deemed acerbic and inflated.

It sounds as if he’s closing no doors on other opportunities.

“Open to pursuing other things? Of course. Planning on it? No,” he said. “Do I need to? Fortunately not. Whatever else might be out there … couldn’t be as compelling as this.”

Political junkies probably would disagree.

The Doctor is in

For pro hoops fans who still need a fix in between the second and third games of the NBA Finals, I recommend The Doctor — a 90-minute documentary on the career in the life of Julius Erving, the legend that the NBA and its players owe a great debt for pulling the game into an era that blends entertainment and competition. Some give Larry Bird and Magic Johnson credit for growing the league, but Erving, the marquee player in the NBA before those tots arrived, planted the seeds.

For the most part, it offers a compelling portrait of the man, delving into his personal life, but maintaining the focus on the professional. But it’s what the filmmakers left out that’s equally compelling. And that’s mention of his biracial daughter who was born out of wedlock to a sportswriter with whom Erving had an affair. Perhaps it’s a subject that he didn’t want to broach, which is his right, but it would have added that much more to the story of a man for whom image was extremely important.

That shouldn’t stop people from checking it out at 9 p.m. Monday on NBATV as part of their NBA Originals franchise.

NBA Digital ready to fly

The Finals are airing on ABC, but that doesn’t mean NBA TV won’t get in its share of coverage of the championship series.

NBA TV will have 40 hours of live programming and on-site coverage featuring Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Greg Anthony, Rick Fox, Steve Smith and Chris Webber.

Highlights and other content will be available courtesy of the NBA Game Time app and NBA Mobile and they will load NBA.com also.

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the On Sports Media blog at http://www.ohio.com/blogs/sports-media. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.


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