Well, not unexpectedly, Keith Olbermann has just sued his former employer Current TV to the tune of 70 MILLION dollars for damages and unpaid compensation, breach of contract, sabotage and disparagement.
Days later – also not unexpectedly – Current TV countersued Olbermann claiming that his suit is “false and malicious,” and that Olbermann himself engaged in “serial, material breaches of his contract.” The Current TV network, however additionally piled it on with this: Keith Olbermann is a LIAR and a BULLY.
This term “bully” is an interesting choice of characterization. Could the fact that Olbermann was bullied as a teenager perhaps explain his erratic behavior, the loss of his last 4 jobs, and a deep-seeded chip on his shoulder that cries out for revenge…? A childhood schoolmate suggests just that:
Olbermann has now been summarily dismissed, by four networks.
One certainly would be hard pressed to find another television journalist who can boast of anything that remotely approaches Olbermann’s resume of dismissals.
Olbermann’s arrogance and runaway ego are of course well-documented. Rupert Murdoch summed up Olbermann’ short stint with his Fox Sports network with these few words, “I fired him. He’s crazy.”
Those inside the fledgling Current Network are reported as describing Olbermann as, “an erratic man-child,” with many of his former MSNBC cohorts taking to the internet in support of such sentiments.
To term Olbermann’s superiority complex and history of bad workplace behavior as “unforgivable” would be as glaring an understatement as deeming Bernie Madoff, a petty thief.
Mike Soltys, an ESPN exec, described Olbermann’s stay at the sports network as follows:
”He didn’t burn bridges there, he napalmed them.”
“K.O.”, Keith’s ironic and uninspired nickname at ESPN, was the only former personality not to be invited back for the sports network’s 25th anniversary. He was only allowed to appear on Dan Patrick’s radio show, after Patrick promised that Olbermann would never set foot again on the ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut campus – from which K.O. has been forever banned.
Having been told to hit the bricks at ESPN, FOX SPORTS, MSNBC and now CURRENT, which on paper should have been Olbermann’s OZ, it is clear Keith does not play well with others.
Perhaps it is high time that Olbie finally points that finger inward, at himself.
Olbermann’s travels and travails certainly beg many questions. Clearly an intelligent, talented, insightful man, a humorist in his own right for that matter, Olbermann is a stellar reporter at the height of his game. He is as versed and at home on Capitol Hill as he is at any ballpark or stadium. Why then can’t this man hold a job? What drives this prima-dona to be the cock-o’-the-walk? What is at the root of all of this drama?
The answer to these questions cannot be found in Bristol Connecticut, nor in the steel canyons of New York City, or under the vapid sunshine of the left coast.
For answers to these questions one must travel back in time some 40 years to the small village of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y, Olbermann’s hometown.
Upon arrival, one need make their way to the Hastings High School gymnasium, then down the hall to the varsity locker room. Upon entering, walk to the far end of the locker room, northwest corner. It is here on the floor, that one will notice a small metal grate. It is beneath this grate (sans any construction changes to the arena, of which I am unaware) that answers to this Olbermann debacle may indeed be unearthed.
I, for one, am able to make this journey…as I was there.
“BULLYING” – the current buzzword of this day, was flying well under the radar in the early ’70s. There were many bullies operating in Hastings around that time – Raymond O’Briskie was arguably at the forefront.
Many a kid was taunted. Some were punched as they made their way down the hallway to class, some receiving “wedgies,” some held upside down by their ankles and shaken for lunch money, while others chose instead to hide in teachers’ shadows.
However, for a short period, in and around 1970, there was one victim who stood head and shoulders above all the rest: Keith Olbermann.
For Olbermann, the bullying went far, far, beyond the pale. I and others, who wish to remain anonymous witnessed the abuse that took place on several occasions, usually following gym class. The scenario played out quickly:
Held by four or five youths, his t-shirt ripped, his underwear wedged well up his ass, a kicking and screaming Olbermann begged for mercy as he was carried through a gauntlet of fifteen or so seventh grade boys each reaching in to slather him with Ben Gay, Vasoline, Vitalis, deodorant, or whatever they could find, including their lunch.
As the later-to-be-host of Countdown was being carried toward “the hole”, others were busy in the showers filling a large grey, plastic garbage can with water. Others removed the metal grate from the locker room floor. Beneath was a small, slimy, crawl space of sorts, housing a gunky water meter and what was rumored to be, rats.
The Hole was a space with which Olbermann had grown quite familiar. Shoved down into it, amid screams of laughter, K.O. was instructed to close his eyes and place his head between his legs…he then was showered with talcum powder. Following the dusting, the garbage can of water was flipped over atop him, dousing young Olbermann with gallons and gallons of water.
Amid cheers, and as Olbermann struggled to catch his breath, a final coat of talcum was applied. The metal grate was placed back over him and a portion of lockers slid atop the grate, leaving no chance for escape. His tormentors normally held him captive for only a few minutes – as they dressed – before they slid the lockers back and ran off back to class.
Keith Olbermann left school shortly after these events, his parents electing to enroll him at the private Hackley School in Tarrytown.
I never forgot it. I doubt Olbermann has.
Now slow down all you armchair psychotherapists. I’m not necessarily suggesting that these horrific bullying experiences are solely responsible for Olbermann’s troubles in the work place. But they would have to be important contributing factors.
Olbermann displayed signs of his greatness very early on in life: He was a narcissistic, pompous, annoying know-it-all out of the gate – for as long as any who knew him in grade school can remember. Many are called out, but only a few are chosen. They don’t just place anyone in The Hole.
K.O.’s reputation all but ensures that he is out of reputable television networks from which to be fired for a fifth time. Let us hope that the memories contained here will serve as an aid for whomever the Olbermann arrogance may toll for next – whether that be some lucky book publisher, radio program director, or God-forbid…campaign manager.
The chances of Keith Olbermann ever being able to feel truly a part of any orchestra were vanquished many, many years ago… buried beneath that locker room floor.
FOOTNOTE: If it’s any consolation to Mr. Olbermann and all those up in arms over today’s bullies, Raymond O’Briskie was decapitated in Harlem trying to thwart an attempted theft of his car while on a drug-buy less than six years following the above described events.
Robert Mott is a journalist living in Los Angeles, and attended school in the Hastings educational system.