For those blood-thirsty scallawags who can’t wait for eight more days, GQ has done the gentlemanly thing and published the first major excerpt of the new 770-page book, “ESPN: These Guys Have All The Fun” by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller (linked here).
And, as expected, Keith Olbermann is already questioning its base in factuality.
Not that he’s mentioned (yet) in any of the expected tales of sexual indiscretion, drugs or other illicit behavior. In-house battles were his forte. The former “SportsCenter” anchor, who left L.A.-based KTLA-Channel 5 and KCBS-Channel 2 to take the job in Bristol in 1992, gets first crack at being put in the spotlight by the authors’ publishers, Little, Brown and Company.
The excerpt has a quote from former ESPN Chairman Herb Granath: “I was enraged by Olbermann. Guys like that just piss me off, you know, because there’s no loyalty. It’s just me, me, me. There was no choice but to get rid of him.”
Olbermann, who has already plucked the humorous illustration of him from the GQ story as his new Twitter avitar, tweeted: “till I saw this on Friday I had never heard the name ‘Herb Granath.’ … What was he? A Nijna?”
The excerpt also says that a different ESPN exec said that in 1997 he decided “we would be better off without Keith” and decided not to renew his contract.
Olbermann’s Twitter response: “I told them in ’96 or early ’97 I was not coming back. The whole ‘we didn’t renew his option’ is untrue. There was no option.”
The GQ excerpt — which according to the New York Times’ Friday media column (linked here) wasn’t so easy to get, considering the cone of silence put over this project — also has a few other humorous responses, such as Charley Steiner, the current Dodgers’ radio play-by-play man and former ESPN colleague, who talks about how in 1992 Olbermann was put on this new ESPN2 channel, complete with a black leather jacket, to try to show how hip this new network could be: “The problem about the birth of ESPN2 was, you can’t try and be hip; either you are or you aren’t. It’s that simple. But putting poor old Keith in a black leather jacket like he’s heading for a dominatrix studio, come on!”
It was Olbermann who actually made that night famous by pronouncing: “Welcome to the end of my career” as he begain the first ESPN2 show, “SportsNight.”
Adds Michael Mandt, a production assistant: “I was working the teleprompter for that first show, and I can tell you that first line of Keith’s was not on the prompter.”
And another quote from producer Bill Wolff: “Chris Berman made that place. But the guy who made ESPN a household word, the guy who made ESPN mean something in the market to everyone, was Keith Olbermann. God, he was a genius. He just reinvented sportscasting by being the smartest guy who ever did it. And watching him in the mid-’90s was a pleasure. It was appointment viewing: What was Olbermann going to say that night.”
And one more from “Outside The Lines” anchor Bob Ley: “We felt not so much relief when Keith left as unrestrained fucking joy. And it may not be fair to him, because I don’t know what his issues are. Some of what happened with him back then is romanticized, but there are still people there who remember how people were treated, spoken to, referred to, and no amount of subsequent gentle behavior is going to erase that.”
The book comes out officially on Tuesday, May 24. If not sooner on the Internet with more sausy chapters characterized as deleted (linked here).