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KO nation

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  May 12, 2010 01:14 PM

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Keith Olbermann is a valued acquaintance -- "Friend" might be a little strong, but I'd be happy to say it --  of mine. Back when ESPN was launching ESPN2, they were trying to put together SportsNight, the new network's ill-fated night-time show. (And the show that I still believe could have been Anglo sports-television's answer to Sabado Gigante.) Anyway, I'd been asked to audition to be one of the show's regular talking-heads, and Olbermann was one of its three anchors. (ESPN2 being the "hip" alternative to the flagship network, they put Olbermann in a leather jacket behind the desk. Did I mention that the whole concept of the show was doomstruck from the start?) At one loose moment, we found ourselves lounging against a car outside on the campus in Bristol.  "Is it just me," he asked me, "or does this whole thing not make a lot of sense?"

I like him. He's smart and funny, if occasionally a bit full of himself. (Now there's something rare in television.) He's also a stone baseball fanatic. He's one of Those People, the ones who see in baseball all sorts of things for which I am apparently congenitally blind. For a while now, he's been contributing a blog called "Baseball Nerd" to the MLB.com site. I pop by occasionally, but not too often, because, while I like Keith, his blog is about, you know, baseball.

However, his presence on the MLB site has drawn the ire of S.E. Cupp, a rising and frisky young conservative who seems to have borrowed Ann Coulter's persona and Nana Mouskouri's eyeglasses. (Ms. Cupp claims to be a conservative atheist who respects religion. She even wrote a book to that effect.  Everybody needs to make a living, I guess.) There's also the miraculous --  and wholly spontaneous, I am sure -- appearance of a website that makes largely the same case, with bonus quotes from the largely unemployable Liz Cheney! The website, you may notice, looks like it was drawn in chalk on your monitor screen 10 minutes ago.

Baseball, it seems, makes Ms. Cupp feel really American:

"Nothing says "America" like our national pastime. For a few yawning hours, chronological time becomes primordial time, and within those walls of sacred stadiums, space becomes holy."

Good lord. I'm going to get Ken Burns one day for this. I swear to god, I am.

From this passage, we can conclude that Ms. Cupp has been around baseball players as much as she has been around most Sherpas, although I've seen things happen in baseball clubhouses that were pretty damned primordial. I'll give her that.

The whole kerfuffle has drawn a little attention today in the ginmills along the docks in Blogistan, largely because it once again posits the notion that Rush Limbaugh was a poor widdle victim of the socialist-Muslimo-Kenyan-leftocrats who run the National Football League. (I may never stop laughing at that one.) The parallelism here is, of course, threadbare. The bill of particulars against Limbaugh is long and getting longer. That the NFL and its broadcast partners might find it uncomfortable to associate themselves with a race-baiting yahoo who tells African American callers to get the bones out of their noses, and who recently seems to be heading towards notions best left to the ham-radio set in upper Michigan, is utterly unsurprising, unless of course you're fishing around for a cheap culture-war column to pass the time.

What Olbermann is doing for MLB is writing a blog, which does not mean that he has been given MLB's "imprimatur to speak for the game." It's a blog, toots. He speaks for himself. MLB gives him a platform for his opinions on baseball which are, I can assure you, deeply felt and utterly genuine -- as opposed to, say, your own.


I am particularly amused by Ms. Cupp's lining up Olbermann with the various other baseball villains like Chick Gandil, Pete Rose, and Jose Canseco. (This is truly funny because, on issues like Rose's going to the Hall of Fame, and the possible enshrinement of the stars of the steroid era, Olbermann's way to the right of, well, me.) Wikipedia can be a wonderful tool, I reckon. However, as she is new to sportswriting, I might point out that, if you're writing a column in which Rush Limbaugh is positioned as a victim, you might want to stay away from phrases like "long line of performance-enhancing abusers." Just sayin'.

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