Whether Keith Olbermann has no intention of ever working in sports TV again or television altogether, I cannot say for certain. But if he’s burned a number of career bridges previously, one of ’em is positively napalmed in his latest MLBlogs post, “You Can Rely On ESPN: They’ll Always Let You Down”. Olbermann refers to Wendi Nix as “info-challenged”, cites the “jab-pencils-into-your-eyes repetitiveness” of Sir John Kruk and dubs ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast, “Bobby Valentine’s Three-Hour Autobiographical History Of The World”. And that’s before Keef really unloads on the Worldwide Leader, cutting his former employer down to size for their startling failure to adjust ESPN.com’s Fantasy Baseball game to reflect SF’s Pablo Sandoval being placed on the disabled list in a timely fashion (ie. within a day of his hitting the DL in real life).
For Sandoval’s thousands of “owners” – and by the company’s own stats he is “owned” in every single one of the leagues it operates – they are thus not only deprived of his services and the opportunity to replace him, but conceivably could have sat there in frozen and agonized horror while other owners in their league got to his potential replacements first. A call to ESPN’s fantasy “help” line revealed this disturbing fact: the phone operator said the game managers never updated disabled list eligibility over the weekend, so Sandoval would likely not be made DL-eligible before Monday. If it hadn’t happened by then, the operator helpfully suggested, they could write up a “ticket” and see if the problem could be corrected in the next few days.
When I was at ESPN, the then managing editor John Walsh used to forcefully remind us that all the research data on the constancy of the audience produced the same stark data: they were the most loyal in television, and planned to remain loyal for ever more – unless somebody came along and offered them a better product. Leaving a few thousand fantasy players remembering the weekend “ESPN” became a four-letter word may not seem like a back-breaking straw, but combine it with the soliloquies of Bobby V and the knowledge that the network’s key games will soon enough get trundled off to the backwaters of ESPN2 to provide space for football exhibitions – to say nothing of the existence of a truly superb 24-hour product from MLB Network – and you can almost watch the loyalty dissolving before your eyes.