Keith Olbermann is back at ESPN.
Yes, we’ve written that before in recent months, when Olbermann began voicing essays for SportsCenter and guest-hosting a few days of PTI, but now we mean it for real. ESPN announced Friday that Olbermann’s role at the network will expand once again, with the once-celebrated anchor hosting approximately 20 editions of the 11 p.m. SportsCenter over the course of the year, while also working in studio and in the booth on ESPN’s Major League Baseball coverage and appearing on network studio shows including PTI and Outside the Lines.
“Keith’s smart, creative perspective on the world of sports always informs and entertains fans,” ESPN executive Norby Williamson said in a release. “His varied collection of ESPN appearances over the last several months has provided a great model for utilizing his distinctive voice and this new agreement will extend his contributions even further.”
The big news here is that Olbermann will be back in the role that once made him one of the most compelling sports anchors of all-time. For much of the period between 1992 and 1997, Olbermann hosted the 11 p.m. SportsCenter alongside Dan Patrick, delighting audiences with his wit and humor. Now, more than 20 years after leaving that gig, he’ll be back in the anchor chair for what will apparently be a few 11 p.m. shows a month, in what seems to be a peace offering to all the people who have complained about SportsCenter drifting from its “Big Show” roots.
Olbermann has been busy since leaving ESPN for the first time, working for — deep breath — MSNBC, Fox Sports, ABC Radio Network, Salon, CNN, MSNBC again, ESPN Radio, Current TV, FOKNewsChannel.com, ESPN again and GQ. His most recent stint at ESPN before the current one saw him hosting a nightly show on ESPN2, which lasted from 2013-2015.
In a statement Friday, Olbermann noted his tendency to leave and re-join ESPN every few years.
“Since we started this, my 6th separate tenure with ESPN, in January, I’ve found the variety of assignments to be most the fun and energizing of all my stints,” he said. “Adding stuff like being a rookie 59-year old play-by-play guy, plus the Rip Van Winkle of SportsCenter, only adds to the smorgasbord. Can’t wait, and at my age, I shouldn’t.”
Please stand well back from your TV and Radio receivers https://t.co/OhT4BaZrAn
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) May 25, 2018
One storyline to watch in Olbermann’s latest ESPN return will be whether he’s swept into the ESPN-is-too-liberal narrative that has hounded the network the last few years. Olbermann has never hid his left-of-center ideology, and although it doesn’t sound as though political or social commentary will be a big part of his role, his mere presence could set off some of ESPN’s right-wing critics.
ESPN did not reveal when Olbermann would debut (again) on SportsCenter, but it did announce that he would call play-by-play of Monday’s Astros-Yankees game on ESPN Radio, alongside Jim Bowden. His baseball responsibilities this season will also include roles on ESPN’s All-Star Game and World Series coverage.