During his first infamous stint at the sports network, the tempestuous anchor didn’t just burn bridges, he "napalmed" them, according to one exec. Now back and helming a new late-night show, he shares his hopes for his second go-round, how he made amends, and what he really thinks of Al Gore.
"I could see it on my tombstone, or at least in my obit: 'Keith Olbermann, who left ESPN in a tempest …,' " he says, somewhat wistfully. "What I would like to go for is: 'Keith Olbermann, who left ESPN in a tempest in 1997 and then returned later and retired with a gold watch.' I'd like to give that a shot, having repaired most of the damage. I think that really would be great."
Photo by: Miller Mobley
On His Mea Culpas
Olbermann famously burned bridges at ESPN, but embarked on apology tour of sorts in the years before his return. Among his big regrets is clashing with sportscaster Suzy Kolber, whose pieces he used to attack on air and whom he once made cry.
"I mean, you don't want to provoke anybody to tears but especially a female colleague in what was not a female-conducive environment at that point. It was 10-to-1 men on the [Bristol] campus," he says. And when he saw her at the Super Bowl in '09, "we went running at each other with a big hug."
'This Day in Keith History'
"It's important to acknowledge that I was here before," says Olbermann, referring to a "This Day in Keith History" segment on his new ESPN show, Olbermann, that will look back at his tenure at the network from 1992 to 1997.
Preparing for His Return
"Keith’s on-air work led me to believe that I was going to meet this guy who was tough and willing to fight," says Jamie Horowitz, ESPN vp original programming (left), with Olbermann during a rehearsal for the ESPN2 show. "And then you sit down at the table with him, and he exudes charm and affability that's totally disarming."
Olbermann on Al Gore
"When you work for someone you admired politically who turns out to be a clod, the scales fall from your eyes. Sorry. Al underdelivered. I mean that's just simply the case. I don't want to dwell on it, but it's true." Olbermann says of his former Current TV boss.