Like most women, I have a type. Oh sure, you can swoon over your big muscled hunks, your long-haired Fabios, your sweet talking Lotharios. I go for the smartest, dweebiest guy in the room. I go for guys like Keith Olbermann. I mean, what’s sexier than a guy who wears glasses*? What’s sexier than a guy who uses multi-syllable words and assumes everyone them?
While I’d long been aware of Keith Olbermann, my first real memory of him is a skit he did with Joe Buck about baseball over the decades. I somehow recall tie-dye. Hopefully I wasn’t wearing it. I was also vaguely aware of Olbermann’s rather checkered broadcast career. And I knew that the year I was all crazy about Chuck Knoblauch was also the year that Knoblauch somehow hit Olbermann’s mother with a wild throw.
I discovered Countdown with Keith Olbermann in the usual way. I was in a hotel in New York, poring over the just-breaking Valerie Plame scandal. The husband emailed me, saying, “You gotta check this show out.” I emailed back something to effect of “Dude, caught it last night. How cool is that?”
(This is not a faithful recitation of our emailed conversation, but you get the gist)
By the time I returned home, we had Countdown in the TiVo rotation. I broke up with my local Fox affiliate not long after. It was ugly. They’d crossed a news line I couldn’t accept. How do you say goodbye to the weatherman who had seen you through more sunny days than most people can imagine? It was fine because I had Keith.
And every night (except when he’s vacationing, which seems to happen just often enough to make me worry), Keith takes me through the stories I’m theoretically going to be talking about tomorrow. Being a news junkie, I’m generally on top of the stories he’s covering. That’s fine; it gives me a chance to talk back to the television…or, more specifically, the pundits who spin, spin, spin their perspectives (if anyone cares, I have a particular soft spot for Evan Kohlmann of Global Terror Alert – there are days when he’s so insanely busy with what’s going on in the world that he looks like he couldn’t be bothered to comb his hair).
Olbermann’s feud with Bill O’Reilly is hilarious to me. O’Reilly’s public persona is that of a bully; Olbermann, in the role of class nerd, should be the underdog. But in the war of brains, O’Reilly is outmatched. He’s been reduced to sulking and name-calling. It’s vindication for smart kids everywhere. Our mothers told us that bullies never win. Olbermann proves it with easy grace.
Though the show is called “Countdown”, the hard news is generally reserved for spots five and four — the beginning of the show. Softer news comes later, though sometimes spot one is informative. Usually that happens when regular correspondent Monica Novotny pops in with a story. It’s cute, watching the light flirtation between Keith and Monica, and without her, I wouldn’t know the sad fate of unclaimed airplane luggage. To think that someday my suitcase might end up in a warehouse and I wouldn’t know about it…
We’ve been taught that our grim, awful news is something that should be treated with solemnity. And maybe if you aren’t paying attention, every story is a revelation. Keith Olbermann pays attention. He knows that this week’s announcement about the current offensive in Baghdad — the one that will restore peace and stability to the city — is the third or fourth (depending on how you count) such announcement. It’s an insult to the intelligence of his viewers to treat the news with anything less than a dose of skepticism. Other news agencies practice a strange sort of amnesia; Countdown remembers.
In our celebrity-obsessed world, Countdown covers the all-important movers and shakers of Hollywood. I mean, don’t we all want to know about baby Suri’s every burp? Yeah, the mere thought bores me to tears, too. Olbermann’s producers “force” him to cover this stuff, and while I wonder how he can’t arm wrestle them for control of the show, I appreciate the updates. It’s the only way certain members of my household can fake their way through inane conversation with complete strangers.
Countdown with Keith Olbermann is my primary television news source. Without it, I would have given up on the medium long ago. As long as it exists, I have faith.
* – If you happen to be married to me and in possession of suspiciously perfect vision, please do not take this personally.