We knew Keith Olbermann was a fan of lists. And since the popular nighttime MSNBC anchor -- a former ESPN host and WCVB sportscaster -- was going to be in Boston last night to speak at an American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts banquet, we asked him to give us five quick answers.
Q Best president?
A Lincoln. Can't argue with turning the catastrophe of Civil War into the emancipation of the slaves. Although I think James Polk is terribly underrated -- took the chance on California, managed to enrage the leaders of all the political parties.
Q Best member of the Red Sox?
A Current: Terry Francona. Sitting in the dugout with him during an exhibition game this year taught me about 25 percent more baseball than I knew, and his light touch running the club was a delight to watch. Best of all time? Johnny Pesky. Anybody who could still be working for the same organization 43 years after losing the manager's job is doing something right. Plus 10 years ago he ended an interview with me by giving a very warm handshake, which he promptly turned into a 'soul shake.' I am still in awe. I will confess I have a certain wistful regard for Jim Willoughby, who is, to my knowledge, still under the stands somewhere waiting for Darrell Johnson to tell him he's kidding and he really isn't taking him out so Jim Burton can pitch the ninth inning of Game 7 of the '75 Series.
Q Best US foreign intervention?
A Afghanistan. One can argue that World War I qualifies -- only our shipping was attacked, not the nation per se. But for pure justified bona fide 'world's policeman' work, going after the Taliban was inarguable. And incomplete.
Q Best recent movie or book?
A I loved 'The Echoing Green' by Josh Prager, a microscopic workup of the 1951 National League pennant race. 'Gettysburg Gospel' by Gabor Boritt is the same kind of writing: a specific event, researched to death, so detailed as to transport you to the time and place. Great written history should approach time travel; these do.
Q Best guess on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees in 2008?
A Al Gore and Mitt Romney. I think the far right will eventually recoil from [Rudolph] Giuliani and pick Romney because he looks like a president and sounds like a Bing Crosby record. And I think Gore can have the nomination for the asking.
Q Bonus question: Odds Gore will win the Nobel Peace Prize?
A 3 to 1 that he'll win it. But the odds it will go to somebody else on a recount are 3 to 2.