The Curmudgeon isn’t a Keith Olbermann fan. Although apparently a real pain in the ass to work with, which doesn’t bother The Curmudgeon because he doesn’t anticipate sharing an employer with Olbermann anytime soon, he’s a terrific broadcaster, incredibly forceful and articulate, and probably an excellent writer, because all of those rants of his surely can’t be extemporaneous. When he was on MSNBC, his style was so thoroughly obnoxious that even though The Curmudgeon agrees with him on the vast majority of political issues, he found watching Olbermann no less unpleasant than watching Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity.
Olbermann’s at ESPN these days – his second tour of duty there after stints with MSNBC, Fox Sports, NBC sports, the ABC radio network, and something called Current TV. Right now he has a thirty-minute afternoon show five nights a week, a mix consisting of two-thirds of Olbermann pontificating and one-third him interviewing someone from the world of sports or entertainment. The Curmudgeon has never seen Olbermann’s current ESPN show and has no interest in doing so because it’s not the kind of thing that interests him regardless of who’s doing the talking or what they’re talking about.
A few days ago Olbermann was suspended from his job for the rest of the week because of a Twitter exchange he had with some Penn State students who were bragging about a successful charity event they had just completed. Olbermann belittled the students, belittled the event, belittled the school, and belittled its alumni.
But suspending him doesn’t make sense. ESPN hired Olbermann, an opinionated guy, and put him on television two-and-a-half hours a week to… give his opinions. He’s not a reporter, he’s a commentator. Pretty much all he does on his show, as The Curmudgeon understands it, is sit there and give his opinions. That’s his job; it’s what ESPN hired him to do.
So then why suspend him for giving an opinion? Is he only permitted to express some opinions? The nice opinions? The opinions that don’t offend anyone, or don’t offend many?
The folks at ESPN knew what they were getting when they hired Olbermann, knew he would be inflammatory, and no doubt encourage him to use Twitter to engage with viewers and potential viewers to build the audience both for his show and ESPN in general.
So why suspend him for daring to express a unpopular opinion?
When did we get so damned sensitive that we can’t tolerate opinions that differ from our own and feel the need to punish – severely – those who have them?