Olbermann rises from ashes

ON MEDIA

November 25, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

Olbermann rises from ashes

So here's what I want to know: Where did Keith Olbermann get the asbestos boots?

With Monday's announcement that Olbermann will be a daily regular on Dan Patrick's ESPN Radio talk show, it appears Olbermann has crossed over what seemed to be burned bridges with ESPN.

Maybe the harsh words and reportedly bruised feelings from the Olbermann-ESPN relationship are so far in the past now that it doesn't matter. Or maybe those bridges were just a little singed.

In any case, for any sports fan with ears and a brain, this is wonderful news. Olbermann has been joining Patrick, his former SportsCenter partner, for an hour on Fridays. Starting Monday, Olbermann will be on with Patrick from 2 to 3 p.m. each weekday. (Patrick's show is heard locally on WJFK [1300 AM].)

Their chemistry is intact, even though the two aren't even in the same studio during the show. Patrick is at ESPN Central in Bristol, Conn., Olbermann in New York, where he does his nightly MSNBC news show.

Listening to Olbermann talk sports, you - and, of course, by "you," I mean "me" - are amused, informed, thoroughly entertained. And unlike so much sports talk, you don't end up feeling like someone has taken a vacuum to your brain.

Patrick's deadpan delivery sounds so much better with a partner to play off. (But not just any partner. Don't even start thinking Rob Dibble.)

Whether it involved hot-footing it across a bridge or not, we - and, of course, by "we," I mean "me" - are glad to have more Olbermann talking sports.

Unrated

Though Sunday's Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game drew about six points higher in ratings in Baltimore than the previous week with a 19.8, the number looks anemic compared with how the game did in Pittsburgh. The Steelers got a 45.7 in their hometown, making Pittsburgh the top NFL market in ratings for the week.

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure ... Oops, didn't mention shares. Just an old reflex to start typing that.

Because you - and, of course, by "you," this time I actually mean "you" - crave additional ratings information more than you did that second piece of pumpkin pie yesterday, there is this: The just-completed NASCAR Nextel Cup season averaged a 4.7 rating on NBC and TNT, up slightly from last year.

The finale, Sunday's Ford 400, drew a 5.9 nationally. Baltimore was less interested, registering a 3.6.

Testy times

Shannon Sharpe's dismissive comments about Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller have resulted in a little back and forth between Boller and the CBS studio analyst - and even Ravens coach Brian Billick. But after Sunday's discussion on The NFL Today, let's hope we've heard the end of it from Sharpe.

Boomer Esiason was gently needling Sharpe about Boller's remarks, saying he didn't care what Sharpe had to say. Esiason said, "Kyle Boller does have a point." Sharpe replied, "On his head?"

Nanny, nanny, boo, boo to you, too.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Steve Young had questioned the mental toughness of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms. Part of his reasoning was that young Simms had grown up in privileged circumstances as the son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms.

The elder Simms, a CBS analyst, didn't appreciate the comments. But he issued what he said would be his last words on the matter in a piece at NFL.com.

"A lot of people criticize my son, and they have for many years," Phil Simms wrote. "I understand the business, so I remain quiet. If that's what you do, that's what you do. But I thought this instance was different. Young questioned Chris' mental toughness and said it was due to a `laissez faire' upbringing. It was a thought that I know not to be true. Even though I'm in the business and he is my son, I didn't feel like I had to refrain and let that go.

"I speak out weekly about NFL matters - about players, teams and coaches -that I know are not true. I speak out about perceptions that other people in my business have. And when I totally disagree, I say it. I say it in this column, I say it on radio shows, I say it on Sundays.

"So I've said my piece and I will not talk about it ever again."

As has been pointed out elsewhere, Young himself grew up in upper-crust Greenwich, Conn. Did that affect Young's mental toughness during his career as an NFL quarterback?

ray.frager@baltsun.com

TV highlights

College football: After the game Fresno State gave Southern California last week, the Bulldogs may be worth checking out when they take on Nevada tomorrow (7:15 p.m., ESPN2). Fresno State, already headed to the Liberty Bowl, can win the Western Athletic Conference outright with a victory.

Movies: Let's say you just don't feel like watching the NFL Sunday. What you'd really like to do is watch made-for-TV sports movies. You're in luck. ESPN Classic has four of the network's offerings back-to-back-to-back-to-back, starting at 2 p.m. The lineup, in order: Junction Boys, Hustle, 3 and Four Minutes.

Action sports: And suppose you just can't bring yourself to watch that Pete Rose movie at 4 p.m.? Maybe you want to see young athletes flinging themselves around without apparent care for life and limb. Again, you're in luck. NBC (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4) has a two-hour highlight show of the Dew Action Sport Tour's first season, featuring skateboarding, BMX and freestyle motocross.

Compiled by Ray Frager

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Nov. 16-21 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Ch. Rtg.

Ravens-Steelers 11/20 13 19.8

Colts-Bengals 11/20 13 15.5

Vikings-Packers 11/21 2 9.8

Chiefs-Texans 11/20 ESPN 5.3

UM-Boston Col.-a 11/19 13 5.3

NFL Today 11/20 13 4.9

UM-Gonzaga-b 11/21 ESPN2 3.7

NASCAR 11/20 11 3.6

WWE Raw 11/21 USA 3.4

Ga. Tech-Miami-a 11/19 ESPN 3.4

a-football; b-basketball [ Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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