Olbermann makes opening point vs. ESPN


Final call: Keith Jackson, shown with Fiesta Bowl partner Bob Griese, put down the mike for good last night after 32 years with ABC.

The good news for tomorrow night is that Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann will be doing sports highlights at 11 p.m. again.

The bad news is that they'll be opposite each other, as Olbermann's new venture on Fox Sports Net's "Fox Sports News" (seen locally on Home Team Sports) begins this evening, while Patrick remains on ESPN's "SportsCenter."

In the short term, Olbermann, who reportedly signed a deal with Fox worth $1 million a year, will play David to ESPN's Goliath, what with the latter's huge advantage in name recognition and availability in homes.

But Fox obviously sees this as a protracted battle to raise the visibility of its cable brand, and Olbermann seems to be the kind of talent who can help them make the stakes a little more even.

Stay tuned.

Catching up

A few notes from a cold, winter's nap, er, vacation:

Let's see if we have this straight: For the first time in the history of this nation, an elected president is impeached by the House of Representatives, and CBS decides that it will occasionally cut into the Jets-Buffalo regular-season game or go to split screens? Network founder William Paley must have been spinning in his grave.

Perhaps we shouldn't expect more from a network that syndicates "The Howard Stern Show," where the private parts of women are shaved on camera, but someone at CBS management should have had the good sense to know that the possible removal of a president deserves the nation's full and undivided attention.

Here's hoping CBS' NFL pre-game rumor man, Michael Lombardi, is right and Matt Millen heads to the Detroit Lions' front office and out of the booth. At least listeners wouldn't have to hear Millen's obtrusive chatter over the calls of play-by-play announcers anymore.

If you listened to CBS Radio's broadcast of Sunday's Packers-49ers game, you heard Millen bellowing over Joel Meyers' attempt to call the game-winning touchdown grab. It's not the first time it's happened; hopefully it will be the last.

To paraphrase San Francisco Chronicle columnist Tim Keown, do you suppose that many of the people who watched the Humanitarian Bowl would rather have watched the Sociopath Bowl instead?

And speaking of sociopaths, by now we've all sadly gotten used to Indiana men's basketball coach Bob Knight's bully-boy routine. But to sully the reputations of referees, as he did during a five-part ESPN interview Christmas week by suggesting that officials with gambling interests were affecting game outcomes, and not offering a shred of proof, is unforgivable.

Even more egregious was ESPN's decision to have the unctuous Digger Phelps do the interview. Increasingly, the "world-wide leader" has allowed former jocks and coaches to play journalist/interviewer, and this time it bit them you-know-where. Phelps, a long-time Knight apologist, was ill-equipped to follow-up the ridiculous assertion from the coach by asking where he was getting his information. Instead, Phelps whisked Knight onto recruiting. Too bad the whole interview couldn't have been whisked off the air.

Pub Date: 1/05/99

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