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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Keith Olbermann promises no politics on his new ESPN2 show

Keith Olbermann is returning to ESPN2 with a nightly show - cleverly titled "Olbermann" - on Aug. 26. And he won’t be talking politics, he promised.

Not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t want to.

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"There’s nothing preventing me from doing it other than common sense," Olbermann said.

He flat out denied a report in The New York Times that he was forbidden contractually from talking about politics on his new show.

"There is no such clause referring to content about anything that we might do on the show," he said. "It’s not the biggest mistake in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s led to a bunch of questions about ‘How could you not talk about politics?’"

He said he doesn’t intend to talk about politics, but not because he contractually prohibited from doing so. Rather, "The simple reason is that it’s a sports show."

Makes sense.

He didn’t completely rule out ever talking about politics.

"If Barack Obama runs onto the field during the all-star game, we will have to talk about the ramifications of that during the game and perhaps for his political future," he said. "But it will not be the intent to say, ‘The Chicago White Sox moved to Vancouver, Canada, today - but first, let’s talk about what Speaker Boehner said.’

"No offense to him or his supporters. I hope not to mention his name at all during the show or any [other politican’s]. I’ve done and enjoy and own the work that I did in politics and news, but that’s not what this is. I wanted to go back into sports."

And a sports show is not the place to be talking politics the way he did on MSNBC and Current.

"It is not a topic for the show for the simple reason that the audience doesn’t want it," Olbermann said. "And I don’t want to do it either."

That doesn’t mean it will never happen. ESPN’s vice president of programming, Jamie Horowitz, said, "It’s not dissimilar from other shows on ESPN. When sports intersects with politics or culture or music, we expect that our opinions will weigh in on the stories."

Olbermann said leaving politics behind will hardly be a hardship for him.

"It’s been wonderful not talking politics," he said. "I did it for 10 years ... and if there’s anything that you’d like to do after that experience, it’s a sportscast.

"I mean, it wasn’t a hobby that I had. It wasn’t it wasn’t a mercenary activity that I had in my last two positions. But it was a lot of work, and it took a lot out of me, and it was not often that much fun."

Goaded a bit, Olbermann did express an opinion about the latest Anthony Weiner scandal.

"Well, I think that he stole a great fake hotel sign-in name that I would have liked to have used," he said. "The idea that anyone could call themselves, under any circumstance and for any purpose, ‘Carlos Danger’ is a tribute to something about him.

"I guarantee you, ‘Carlos Danger’ will wind up in the first show of the new [‘Olbermann’] series somehow, even if it’s talking about Carlos Marmol, the Dodgers, and how he presents a Carlos Danger to their bull pen."

And there will be one thing about "Olbermann" that looks a lot like his MSNBC series "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

"We will be having a segment called ‘The Worst Person in the Sports World’ because people kind of like that one, even people who weren’t that into the political game or the news game when they were watching the show," he said.

Even the people who made the the old "Worst Person in the World" list were sort of flattered, in a weird way.

"People come back to me and say, ‘Ten years ago, you put me on the Worst Person’s List and I’m still angry about it because I was only third. Why wasn’t I the worst person?’" Olbermann said.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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