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Scott D. Pierce: Olbermann is back at ESPN2 ... for now

Published August 23, 2013 4:47 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There is at least one person who isn't surprised that Keith Olbermann has returned to ESPN. Probably only one person.

And that would be Keith Olbermann himself.

"I never really thought it was worth, if you will, giving up on the whole thing," he said. "I mean, if the bridges are burned, take the tunnel."

Some 16 years after the "SportsCenter" co-anchor left ESPN — the first of several fiery such departures — Olbermann is back. Beginning Monday, he will anchor "Olbermann" weeknights at 9 p.m. MT on ESPN2.

"Anyone who has seen Keith's work before knows he has the right combination of personality and authority to drive a successful show on ESPN," said Jamie Horowitz, ESPN's vice president of programming.

The question is — for how long? The man is the Mount Vesuvius of TV personalities. He famously feuded with and ultimately stormed away from his bosses at ESPN, MSNBC and Current, (He's also worked for CNN, several local TV stations, Fox, ABC Radio and NBC.)

But Olbermann said things will be different this time. That he has "figured out what parts of it were my fault" during his first tenure at ESPN. And he thanked the ESPN staff for being "gracious" and "generous" about his return.

Including Norby Williamson, the former producer of "SportsCenter" who is now ESPN'sexecutive Senior vice president of studio and event production.

"We had screaming matches," Olbermann said. "And Norby was one of the great advocates for bringing me back."

He talked about the "blunt reality" that some of his professional experiences over the past 16 years made ESPN look like a great place to work.

"I thought I had a pretty good perspective on what" it was like to work someplace "where they didn't agree with me all the time. I didn't know what I was talking about," Olbermann said. "The places I went to thereafter made ESPN, in retrospect, look like a let's-applaud-Keith session for five years.

"So I'm very happy to be back."

Here's hoping that things work out with Olbermann and ESPN this time around. He's one of the great broadcasters of our time — even if you don't agree with his politics.

"Olbermann" won't be about politics, it will be about sports. It will be a lot like "SportsCenter" back in the day. When they assumed viewers knew the scores and set out "to explain why it happened, hopefully, and to add some additional insight in other ways," Olbermann said. "And, failing that, to just do some stupid cliches and catch phrases.

"We are going to do that same kind of concept, but in a 21st century manner. Whatever the hell that means."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.