Olbermann back to life at ESPN


They made him wear funny shirts and leather jackets. They sat him next to a guy who smacks a hammer on the desk. They put him on a network whose programming staple is snowboarders sliding to heavy-metal music.

All of this apparently drove Keith Olbermann to shave off his mustache.

But soon his nightmare will be over. Olbermann will leave ESPN2 and return to ESPN on April 3, it was announced this week.

Olbermann will rejoin Dan Patrick to re-form ESPN's best "SportsCenter" anchor team, and they will be hosts of an expanded "SportsCenter." Also starting on April 3, the show will run an hour, 11 to midnight, each night except Wednesday. The early "SportsCenter" will become an hour, too, running 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Back on ESPN2's "SportsNight," Stuart Scott, one of those cool "SportSmash" people, will become Suzy Kolber's new co-anchor when Olbermann leaves.

ESPN, seeking to save on fax paper by making all these announcements at once, also said that the inimitable Chris Berman -- all right, so maybe he's actually pretty imitable -- will be appearing more often on "Baseball Tonight," believed to be the only ESPN program that is written as two words. Berman, who appeared on Sundays last season, will share anchor duties with Chris Myers and Gary Miller.

Numbers game

Super Bowl ratings on Sunday were the highest in seven years -- a 45.5 rating and 66 share. (The 1987 game drew a 45.8/66.) The numbers were essentially the same as last year's.

In Baltimore, the ratings were up slightly, to 42.6/58, according to Channel 11's Sharon "The Ratings Maven" Walz. The Super Bowl drew 40.5/56 last year.

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. I think Marv Levy was saying that over and over sometime in the fourth quarter.

Leftover Supe

Though I'm sure most of you never let your gaze stray from the TV during the six-plus hours of NBC's Super Bowl programming on Sunday, here are some things you may have missed:

* During the pre-game segment on Super Bowl III, did you catch that pate from the past interviewing Joe Namath 25 years ago? It was Joe Garagiola.

* In the same piece, Namath said of Jimmy Orr's waving for the ball on the famous flea flicker: "Why he thought he was open, I don't know. He was waving to somebody in the stands."

* The Chiefs' Marcus Allen to Paul Maguire on how to become proficient at going over the top at the goal line: "The first thing you have to do is change your dietary habits."

* Mike Ditka on handling players during Super Bowl week: "Boys will be boys, and men will be men. You have to let them get all that craziness out of the way early in the week."

* Joe Gibbs on players' TV shows: "I thought it was great that players had shows, because they had to answer the same questions I did."

* During his pre-game appearance, the Falcons' Deion Sanders looked absolutely subdued, sporting minimal jewelry and wearing a tasteful, black-and-white vest and shirt.

Interviewed at the same time, the Chiefs' Derrick Thomas had an iridescent green jacket that made him look as if he'd won The Masters using radioactive clubs.

* It was just Bud Bowl VI, but the idea is looking pretty tired already.

* During the second quarter, analyst Bob Trumpy said that the Cowboys' Troy Aikman still had been experiencing severe headaches on Wednesday from his concussion suffered in the NFC title game. With so little real news at the Super Bowl, why save this information so long?

Mr. Malaprop

Paul Davis, Channel 11's master of misstatement, offered these recent gems:

* He said a dunk by Maryland's Johnny Rhodes came from Arthur Rhodes, who rarely dunks for the Orioles.

* In one sportscast, he twice referred to the Duke Blue Devils as the Blue Demons.

* He said Mount Airy boxer Simon Brown was from "Mount St. Airy."

Powerfully produced

On Monday through Wednesday at 9 p.m., MPT will carry PBS' "Power Plays," three two-hour shows dealing with sports. Each night features two segments. The first night covers Michael Jordan and boxing promotion. The second deals with football agents and baseball owners. The last show covers football in Texas and NBA/NHL marketing.

If the Wednesday program that was available for preview is an example, this is an extremely well-produced series that won't tell you much if you're more than a casual sports fan. The Texas piece dealt with Tom Landry, the Dallas Cowboys, small-town football and the junction between the sport and religion. The NBA/NHL report suffered from being produced before Gary Bettman took over as NHL commissioner. In any case, regular consumers of sports news have heard these stories before.

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