I have to preface this by saying I've never been a fan of Keith Olbermann. But then I've never been a fan of any particular commentator. I've always considered 'fandom' something reserved for sports teams or maybe an individual player. There's something non-threatening about sports in general. You can root for your team or your favorite player on Sunday or Friday night. They play the game, they win or lose, and we all go on about our real lives.
Being a fan is a lot like being a dog. You give the object of your affection unbridled, unconditional love. It's the only way to explain lifelong support for a team like the Detroit Lions for example. Of the always improving, next year, Detroit Lions I'm a fan. Of Keith Olbermann and his ilk, not so much.
So now that he's gone and his passing from the cable news scene is being splashed across web sites and headlined in newspapers around the country you have to ask yourself why? Who cares? Should we?
The difference between Olbermann and others like him and sports is simple. Sports is make believe. Olbermann and the others want to make you believe. One is innocent fun. The other is not.
I have watched Keith Olbermann on and off since his earliest ESPN days. The Martin and Lewis routine he and Dan Patrick developed doing sports was easy to watch and entertaining. They balanced each other pretty well and became as well-known as any other sports duo on TV, maybe better known. It was new, they were new, and it was fun. EVERYBODY has an opinion about sports and if you're a fan of one team or another you really don't take what a couple of guys on TV have to say about your team too much to heart. Pretty harmless stuff.
But for whatever the reasons, like Martin and Lewis, they 'broke up'. Olbermann had more to say, wanted his own voice on bigger topics other than sports. Nothing wrong with that of course, but when you leave fantasy land and move into what's real you do so at your own risk. In there it's all harmless opinion, out here it can be dangerous. Someone might actually believe you. You might start to think that you ARE important, that what you have to say really does matter.
Olbermann also suffered from an unfortunate burden. He was touted as 'the' voice of the Left, Liberals. He was the anti-O'Reilly, a position he assumed with relish. Why did he do that? Why Gertrude the answer is easy. Viewers. Never, ever forget that what we're really talking about here is television. A fantasy land in its very own way.
When Olbermann first started his new life in television as a pundit he was a pretty reasonable seeming guy. His arguments were well thought out, his positions clear, his feelings open and above board. He also happened to be a man wandering in the desert of MSNBC. Viewers were as rare as water in the Sahara. So he started yelling for help by, well, yelling. His method of speaking for the Left was to make every effort to out shout the Right. Silly. The real problem for Olbermann of course is that there is no Left per se. No single language. Unlike the Right, the Left is a touch more diverse and speaks with many tongues. Olbermann wagged only one.
Is the national conversation, when there is one, weakened by his exit? Nope. Would it be weakened if the television voices of the Olbermann opposition were somehow silenced by the good sense of the viewing public? Negative.
I don't know about you, but nobody speaks for me, but me. I try to learn by listening to reasoned arguments and opinions from all sides and then make up my own mind. Keith Olbermann's gone from MSNBC. Who cares? But he was true to his sports beginnings in one way all along.
He became a legend--In his own mind.