Keith Olbermann can so talk politics on his new ESPN2 show, "Olbermann."
He just doesn't want to.
Olbermann, meeting with reporters on Wednesday for opening day of the Television Critics Association's summer meetings in Beverly Hills, denied a New York Times report that said, "On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events, but not politics, the two-year pact specifies."
"There is no such clause referring to content," said Olbermann, whose 11 p.m. show is scheduled to launch Aug. 26.
"I'm not intending to talk about politics, certainly not in the partisan sense...for the simple reason that it's a sports show," said the former "SportsCenter" co-anchor, who's returning to ESPN (yes, just one of the many, many places he's worked) after a 16-year absence.
It's an absence that's apparently made his heart, at least, grow fonder.
"I wanted to go back into sports, and I wanted to repair some transportations means with my former employer," said Olbermann, making fun of the cliche most often applied to his tendency to leave jobs trailing a certain amount of ill will.
But really, I asked, Olbermann, how can he not talk about politics?
"It's been wonderful not talking about politics," he said, and referring to most recent employers, MSNBC and Current, added, "If there's anything that you'd like to do after that experience, it's a sportscast."
Doing political shows "was a lot of work. It took a lot out of me, and it wasn't a whole lot of fun. For all that you've heard about it, I had a lot of fun doing 'SportsCenter.'"
Plus, "There is the blunt reality that whatever I thought of ESPN when I worked there ... I didn't know what I was talking about [because] the places I went afterward made ESPN look like a 'let's applaud Keith' session for five years."
Olbermann's no-politics stance doesn't mean he couldn't respond to the Anthony Weiner question another reporter lobbed across the plate. (This is about as close as I can come to a sports metaphor. Please don't laugh.)
"Well, I think that [Weiner] stole a great fake hotel sign-in name I'd like to have used," said Olbermann of the New York mayoral candidate whose sexting scandal sprang back to life on Tuesday. "The idea that someone could call themselves, under any circumstances...Carlos Danger is a tribute to something about him."
And speaking as New York voter, rather than a pundit, "I don't think anything particularly disqualifies him" to be mayor, he said, noting that New York has a long history of, er, colorful leaders.
So what can we expect of Olbermann's latest TV venture?
"We will be having a segment called 'The Worst Person in the Sports World,'" because people seemed to enjoy that in the old show, he said (particularly, it seems, some of the people who'd won the designation in the non-sports division).
"It will be a sportscast with my stamp on it and obviously my name on it and I'm very happy that it was spelled correctly."
And, no, he won't ignore history. "I think it's important to acknowledge that I was there before. We will be doing that on a nightly basis," with a time-capsule approach, "but frankly, I don't think the audience is interested in having me come on and say, 'Good evening, I'm sorry.'"
In creating the new show -- please, stop me if you've heard this before -- "I'm listening, oh, just a little more than I used to to other people's ideas," said Olbermann, who also said he'd never believed that he absolutely couldn't go back to ESPN.
"If the bridges are burned, take the tunnel," he said. "It's 16 years. It's almost literally a Rip Van Winkle period of time. Napoleon got back to France faster than I got back to ESPN."
And on the off chance that this might not be his last stop, here's an all-purpose Olbermann quote for the ages:
"If you're going to try to predict my career, good luck."
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