Essays On Man Crazy

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Growing up in suburban Hastings-on-Hudson, in Westchester County, he was the sort of kid who, when his parents thought psychological testing was in order, responded to the Rorschach test by saying, “It looks like an inkblot.” Advised that Keith might be better served by a private education, his parents—Theodore, a commercial architect, and Marie, a preschool teacher—enrolled him at the Hackley School, in Tarrytown.It wasn’t an easy adjustment; Keith had skipped a grade and was younger than anyone else in his class, and he wasn’t a jock.Another colleague, Mike Soltys, has said that when Olbermann left the network, in 1997, “he didn’t burn bridges here—he napalmed them.”Olbermann was glad enough to be leaving the grind of full-time sportscasting behind.

Growing up in suburban Hastings-on-Hudson, in Westchester County, he was the sort of kid who, when his parents thought psychological testing was in order, responded to the Rorschach test by saying, “It looks like an inkblot.” Advised that Keith might be better served by a private education, his parents—Theodore, a commercial architect, and Marie, a preschool teacher—enrolled him at the Hackley School, in Tarrytown.It wasn’t an easy adjustment; Keith had skipped a grade and was younger than anyone else in his class, and he wasn’t a jock.Another colleague, Mike Soltys, has said that when Olbermann left the network, in 1997, “he didn’t burn bridges here—he napalmed them.”Olbermann was glad enough to be leaving the grind of full-time sportscasting behind.

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When he was twenty-three, he told Bill Mac Phail, the former CBS Sports executive who had overseen the introduction of instant replay, that Mac Phail didn’t know anything about television sports.

In an argument with one of his supervisors at UPI, he so forcefully advocated his position (“God damn it, this is the minor leagues here,” he said, “and it’s things like this that are keeping us the minor leagues’’) that he was fired that afternoon.

It was nearly midnight before Keith Olbermann left the NBC News election studio on May 13th, having spent five hours on the air, co-anchoring coverage of the West Virginia Democratic primary.

Olbermann had a short ride home from Rockefeller Plaza to his condominium on the Upper East Side, and he was in bed by 2 .

’ ”Jeff Wald, who was then the news director of KTLA Channel 5, in Los Angeles, had heard the stories, but he saw Olbermann’s tapes, and was curious. “Regardless of the baggage he may or may not have, I want to meet this guy and see if he’s the real deal.

And he was.”Wald wanted someone unusual, and he got it.If we were to pull out of Iraq next year, what’s the worst that could happen, what’s the doomsday scenario? Olbermann suddenly had another sensation, unrelated to neurology—a feeling, he later recalled, that was “like being hit by lightning.” He sat down at his computer and began to write. Olbermann’s original script identified the “cold-blooded killers” as everyone at the Pentagon and in the Bush Cabinet; when a colleague noted that that would include such relative moderates as Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Olbermann modified the line.: Doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States. After an hour, he had the first draft of a lacerating indictment of Bush, a twelve-minute-long (eighteen pages in teleprompter script) , addressed personally to the President.“Mr. D.s were imagined, Iraq was laid waste, and American freedoms were trashed. Phil Griffin, the senior vice-president in charge of MSNBC (“Phil thinks he’s my boss,” Olbermann says), raised the matter of tone.(He says he loses depth perception at speeds greater than fifteen miles per hour.) He also hates flying, and that made it difficult to follow the local teams, but it was just as well; Olbermann firmly resisted the chumminess that often develops between sports journalists and their subjects.Wald says that the only argument he had with Olbermann came when Olbermann refused an assignment to cover spring training.In a way, he still sees himself as Olbermann’s handler. Keith is usually two steps ahead of me, when I do come and say, ‘Keith . .’ It’s a give-and-take.”When, in 1981, Olbermann arrived at CNN, then still in its startup throes, he was, at twenty-two, seen as a sportscasting wunderkind—smart, offbeat, and possessed of an encyclopedic range of knowledge.“You don’t take Keith on by just saying, ‘You can’t do that,’ ” Griffin told me. He also had the reputation, even among those who admired his talents, of being somewhat difficult.Griffin was Olbermann’s first television producer, nearly thirty years ago, when both of them were at the start of their careers, Griffin as a CNN producer, Olbermann as an innovative, eccentric radio sportscaster making his first foray into television.It was Griffin’s job to handle Olbermann, to teach him about the frenetic, video-hungry new world of cable news.But he was a good student, and the school’s radio station became his home.Olbermann worked as a sports stringer in college, at Cornell, and when he graduated, in 1979, he went directly to a sportscasting job at UPI radio in New York. He gently mocked the conventions of sportscasting (in his deep broadcaster’s timbre) even while observing them.

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