Patrick, Olbermann make chemistry no inside joke


There's a reason why it appears from time to time that ESPN's Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann are talking right past you on the 11 p.m. "SportsCenter."

They are.

Quite frankly, there are infrequent moments where a reference from a production meeting or a conversation will creep into Olbermann's or Patrick's copy and into your living room, and either you'll get it or you won't.

Even if you don't get that joke, just wait awhile, for there'll be another one coming right around the bend shortly.

"One night, I had just gotten tired of sportscasters referring to someone who was having a good night as being 'on fire,' " said Patrick. "I asked a cameraman what the phrase was in Spanish, and he said 'en fuego.' From there, I started using it, and you can actually hear Keith keeping count now every time I say it."

Patrick and his "tag-team" partner Olbermann are the blend of the wild and wonderful: Patrick, 37, serves as the coolly efficient voice of sanity on the hourlong program, and Olbermann, 35, is the tastefully wacky jokester.

"I still view him as the weird guy in the basement with a chemistry set," said Patrick. "I don't want to go down there to see what he's doing, but I know he's up to something."

When apprised of his partner's comments, Olbermann retorted, "Oh, yeah, well Dan has some of those chemistry-set qualities too. I've heard all those analogies about me being the mad scientist. I've even been compared to Peter Finch's character in 'Network.' I've heard worse."

Probably not from loyal viewers, who have kept a pretty close eye on Patrick and Olbermann since they were teamed in March 1992. Though Olbermann briefly escaped to help launch ESPN2, their teaming has worked because viewers like them and sense they like each other.

"We are interchangeable and we work well together," said Olbermann. "I think there's a mutual feeling between us that 'I'll do anything I can to make this better.' It's a good relationship, though I must say if I'm down there in the basement, I'm probably there making his Brylcreem to make his hair stay in place."

FYI: Patrick and Olbermann have tonight off because Bob Ley, Chris Berman and Tom Mees will be hosting "SportsCenter" in honor of ESPN's 15th anniversary. Ley, Berman and Mees are the only three on-air personnel left from the network's founding.

A whiff

Fox's football debut Sunday was middling. The premiere of its new baseball sitcom, "Hardball," was downright putrid.

OK, so entertainment programs have to take a bit of dramatic license to be interesting, and the real-life goings-on in a baseball clubhouse would be far too drab for the average viewer to waste time watching.

That said, "Hardball" was a mess, with virtually every cliche about baseball players (pampered, selfish, lusty) trotted out for full viewing. Let's hope poor Rose Marie, who got stuck with the Marge Schott-like character right down to the dog, won't be stuck with this as the last entry on her acting resume.

Give them their own planet

Was anyone else frightened by ABC shillmeister Brent Musburger's gleeful announcement the other night that the network will carry five Notre Dame road games this season, including another national appearance against Southern California in November?

That means that 11 Fighting Irish games will be on either NBC or ABC this season. Notre Dame might very well be America's college team, but do we, the viewing public, really need freshman quarterback god Ron Powlus shoved down our throats every week?

Probably not.

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