How Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann’s ‘SportsCenter’ changed TV forever
By Bryan Curtis
First, I went to see Keith. Keith is 60. He has a lot of white hair and, in July, was limping slightly ahead of knee surgery.
At ESPN’s New York studios, Keith was carrying around the hat Jose Canseco wore when a fly ball bounced off his head and went over the wall, because this is the kind of baseball relic that Keith must own. From time to time, he glanced at his phone to see how many rescue dogs his tweets were saving.
When Keith got to talking about ’90s SportsCenter, he was Keith in extremis. He has a photographic memory and -- what other word is appropriate? -- an Olbermannic insistence that history be rendered correctly and precisely. When I told him I was on my way to see his former tag-team partner, Keith said, “I reserve the right of rebuttal!”
Next, I went to see Dan. Dan is mellower. On the topic of ’90s SportsCenter, he said, “Ahhhh, the older we get, the better we were.”
Dan, who is 63, was in his radio studio in Milford, Connecticut. He was wearing a white T-shirt and khakis. He looked wiry and strong, despite receiving regular chemotherapy treatments for intense joint pain. When we met, Dan was still sitting behind his microphone with the TV-simulcast lights shining on him. His support crew of “Danettes” were on the other side of a glass partition.
After he talked for a while, the Danettes had left and turned out the rest of the lights. It was easy to enter a reverie. It was the mid-’90s again, and late at night, in a studio in the Connecticut hinterlands, Dan was making a TV show.
This week, ESPN turns 40 years old. I sought out Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann. I had my reasons. The voice they created while cohosting SportsCenter from 1992 to 1997 still ranks as one of the best and most miraculous things ESPN ever produced. But I think we’ve been appreciating them too narrowly.
On their self-titled Big Show, Patrick and Olbermann took a low art form, doing highlights, and wrested it away from the howling Champ Kinds of local news. Patrick and Olbermann quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson and Monty Python and Johnny Most. They became one-name, Beatles-like categories. For a time, every wannabe sportscaster was a purring, FM-quality “Dan” or a transgressive, scenery-chewing “Keith.”
Their voices were also bigger than that. In Patrick and Olbermann’s hands, SportsCenter was the best TV sportscast and, at the same time, exhilaratingly, the best parody of a TV sportscast. As Scott Van Pelt put it recently, Patrick and Olbmerann mocked the thing they were doing and did the thing they were mocking, and were somehow the best at doing both.
Today, the idea of news anchors giving viewers equal doses of news and satire might sound familiar. That’s because it’s the house style of TV. It’s not that John Oliver and Trevor Noah and every other disciple of Jon Stewart are doing Dan and Keith, exactly. But I’d argue Patrick and Olbermann anticipated the way news and comedy would merge. They refined a hyperliterate, funny, swaggering voice. And they made it cool as hell.
At first, Patrick and Olbermann didn’t exactly endorse this thesis. So I prodded further. Don’t you flip on the TV and hear … you? Don’t you hear Dan and Keith?
Finally, Olbermann relented, if slightly. He said: “If any of the world’s religions are correct, Dan and I, probably separately, will be spending 1,000 years in purgatory, while somebody asks us and Robert Oppenheimer, ‘Did you think about what you were doing -- and what other people might do with it?’”
Keith Olbermann’s first SportsCenters with Dan Patrick were like a taste of freedom. It was April 1992. Olbermann had been sprung from local news in Los Angeles, where he’d been squeezing every thought in his brain into a four-minute sports report.
On ESPN, Olbermann came out firing. He took a jab at Dan Quayle. He quoted The Honeymooners. “He robs Deer,” he said of the Tigers’ Rob Deer.
“He had these jokes, these one-liners,” Patrick remembered. “Then he finally said, ‘I’m exhausted.’ It was only five minutes into the show.”
Given a full hour, Olbermann still had to downsize his brain. After a time, Olbermann figured out a formula. He could take the same number of jokes he’d made in his local sportscast, add one or two more, and have enough to spread over an entire hour of SportsCenter.
We remember Olbermann, not incorrectly, as a moody iconoclast who blazed his way out of jobs on sports TV and cable news. But such a view obscures his talents. If doing highlights is a mixture of writing, delivery, ad-libbing, and swagger, Olbermann was the toolsiest sportscaster in American history.
“He’s the best person to ever do the show, period, in his prime,” said former Big Show producer Mike McQuade.
Asked to list Olbermann’s gifts as an anchor, Patrick said, “Everything.”
When Olbermann got to ESPN, SportsCenter was a slower, more writerly show. A half-dozen times an hour, the anchors delivered prewritten, 20- to 30-second “lead-ins” to a highlight. Olbermann loved lead-ins. There, his writing could achieve its desired density; he could put things just right. “God,” he said, “if you could have a teleprompter in life, how much easier would life be?”
Olbermann’s writing was closer to a sports column than a TV script. It had a beginning, middle, and end. He often led with a fearsome hook. “It’s official now,” Olbermann said, delivering a 1997 report on Mike Tyson’s ear bite. “Boxing is no longer a sport. Now, it’s a parody of the life of Vincent van Gogh.”
Olbermann didn’t hew to the SportsCenter formula of “see highlight, say catchphrase.” For an NFL game, he’d plow through impressions of Inspector Clouseau, Ren and Stimpy, and Al Davis. Describing the action at Wimbledon, he’d say, “Martina Hingis against Nicole Arendt. And she wasn’t. 6-1, 6-3.”
“Keep up with me,” Olbermann was telling the audience. As a child, he’d learned that sports fans are too proud to admit when they don’t get a reference. So on SportsCenter Olbermann could say that Davis was thinking of moving the Raiders to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and know viewers would nod along whether or not they got the joke. Olbermann never smiled when he made jokes. He knew he’d get a bigger laugh if he didn’t.
Olbermann’s energy -- later used to torment network executives and American presidents -- was thrilling when it was trained on sports. Unlike your local sportscaster, Olbermann was as excited about the games as you were.
“You always got the sense that this guy cares a lot,” said Gus Ramsey, who followed McQuade as the Big Show’s producer. “Probably more than me. But that’s a good thing.”
To watch Olbermann write his scripts was itself a performance. In the afternoons, typing with two fingers, Olbermann would polish off his lead-ins in minutes, then pester the producers to give him other stuff to write. Pete McConville, a researcher on the Big Show, remembered: “He would say to Mike or Gus, ‘What’s in the tease?’ ‘Well, the games haven’t started yet, Keith.’”
“Keith’s whole MO was to push the boundaries,” said McQuade. “That’s all he wanted to do all the time: push.” One night, Olbermann violated McQuade’s rule that no SportsCenter lead-in could be longer than the highlight itself. “I proceeded to kill every single lead-in after that, so you never saw Keith again till the end of the show,” McQuade said. “He was so mad. You’d see Dan constantly but not Keith.”
The challenge -- for Olbermann as much as his coworkers -- was keeping him interested. When Olbermann’s friend Rebecca Lobo mentioned she’d just discovered there was an American president named James K. Polk, Olbermann wrote lead-ins about Polk night after night, to the point where ESPN finally put a picture of Polk on the screen. Olbermann said: “This is just me going, ‘I’m really tired of writing another sports lead-in.’”
“I was just turning 33 years old the day I got there,” he said of Bristol, Connecticut. “Had just broken up with a girlfriend in L.A. I was unattached. And my neighbors were cows. It was a tough psychological adjustment.”
When Olbermann worked in L.A., most games ended before his nightly sportscast. He could write his highlights in advance, just as he liked it. Before going on air at ESPN, Olbermann watched Patrick host SportsCenter from the set and noticed that many games were ending midshow. Patrick was ad-libbing his way through video of home runs and 3-pointers he’d never seen before, pulling out words like a play-by-play man does.
Olbermann was stunned. Here was a new superpower he had to acquire. “I learned how to do highlights from Dan Patrick, full stop,” he said.
Of course, Olbermann got great at ad-libbing, too. One night, pitcher Mike Maddux got shelled. During a commercial, a production assistant handed Olbermann a shot sheet describing all the hits that would be shown in the highlight. As McConville watched, Olbermann took out a Sharpie and crossed out everything on the page -- every bit of action he’d need to describe.
“Keith, what are you doing?” McConville said. Olbermann waved him off. When the highlight began to play, Olbermann said, “Mike Maddux.” As the hits piled up, he just said Maddux’s name over and over, in varying states of agitation. “Mike Maddux. Mike Maddux. Mike Maddux. MIKE MADDUX.” And then: “More like Appomattox. He surrendered. Rangers win…”
When McConville looked over at Olbermann, Olbermann was staring at him, as if to say, Didya see that?!
If Olbermann wanted to reach through the TV and grab your lapels, Dan Patrick was more likely to try to blend into the test pattern. Patrick was a comedian in a straight man’s body. His weapons were his news-at-11 looks and a cultivated air of normality.
“Dan looks like the guy on the Kingsford charcoal bag,” Olbermann said. “He just looks like a guy who’s about to offer you a burger or a hot dog. Thus, anything that he does that is creative, original, comedic, poignant -- he has this great benefit of what you think of as a deadpan face.”
“If we did the same joke, you’d probably see the joke coming when I was going to do it. All of them with Dan were stealth.”
Patrick had an improbable rise in sportscasting. Unable to get an anchor gig in Dayton, Ohio, he dropped in at CNN headquarters in Atlanta and, after some determined pestering, walked away with a job. In 1984, he replaced Olbermann as the sports reporter at CNN’s New York bureau. At Olbermann’s goodbye party, Olbermann asked Patrick: “Why aren’t you the same person on the air as you are off the air?” Eight years later, they were hosting SportsCenter together.
Olbermann urged viewers to keep up with him. Patrick only sent that message subliminally. “I always went for the subtle approach,” he said. “Just sneaky. Because if it was funny and you got it, then great. And if you didn’t, it wasn’t like, Boy, that guy’s trying too hard. I never wanted it to come off as if I’m trying to make you laugh.”
Everything about Patrick’s performance on SportsCenter felt sly and sanded down. He said “Gone” instead of “It’s deep, and I don’t think it’s playable.” He rarely “punched” words in his copy. Where other anchors blabbed nonstop, Patrick’s highlights had long silences. “He waited out the video,” said the anchor Kenny Mayne.
Patrick wanted to make waiting into a science. After midnight, when he and Olbermann had signed off, he would take off his tie and sit at his desk. Then he’d watch a tape of the show they’d just completed. If Patrick had called a home run, he would count the microseconds that elapsed between the crack of the bat and the delivery of his catchphrase. Did “Gone” arrive too soon? Was he getting in the way?
“I kind of look at it like a pitching staff,” said Ramsey. “One guy throws a 99-mile-per-hour fastball. The other guy throws 91 but he’s got movement and he’s got the off-speed stuff. … [Patrick] was Greg Maddux.”
Patrick was a stickler for detail. If he wrote a lead-in about a player, he wanted to make sure the player’s face was the first thing viewers saw when the highlight began. While Olbermann pounded out scripts in white heat, Patrick stewed over his for hours. “What am I saying in those 15 to 18 seconds before I lead into the Cleveland Indians–Milwaukee Brewers highlights?” he said. “Goddamn, it was so important to me.”
Patrick wanted to be coached. Or, rather, he thought he had untapped qualities a coach could bring out of him. Once a month, Patrick plopped himself in ESPN guru John Walsh’s office and said, “Tell me what you see.” Olbermann didn’t do that kind of thing. “There was probably more anti-establishmentism to him than me,” Olbermann said. “It just never came out. He wasn’t raised that way. There was always a regulator on what he was saying.”
“I always thought, in those days, he was the kid who was writing the graffiti on the wall as long as it was dark and school had been closed for three weeks.”
Patrick had his reasons for being sneaky. He’d worked at CNN when the network’s gold standard for anchors was Bernie Shaw rather than Chris Cuomo. He’d played college basketball and thought he had more sympathy for athletes than Olbermann. But, mostly, Patrick had a nagging feeling he didn’t deserve his job. “Not many people go into each SportsCenter trying to prove that they belong on SportsCenter,” he told me. “But I did.”
A reprimand from their ESPN bosses would send Olbermann to the barricades. It made Patrick work harder, to the point that he neglected his family. “It was weird,” he said. “I was on this marquee show. We were getting all this praise. And I really lacked confidence.”
Anchors who lacked confidence usually melted when placed next to the Olbermann sportscasting machine. Patrick was better than most anchors. Way better. He also knew he could never let Olbermann sense weakness or insecurity. “I couldn’t allow that to happen,” said Patrick. “He had to know that I looked at him as an equal.” One night, after SportsCenter, Patrick was at his desk reviewing the tape. Wondering whether he could make his home run call a fraction or two more precise. Olbermann walked by. “What are you looking at?” he said. “You got the fuckin’ job.”
“I think I laughed,” Patrick told me. “I don’t know if I ever looked at a tape again.”
Their first broadcasts were devoted to feeling each other out. Olbermann, wearing circular glasses and a big mustache, polished off a highlight. Then he tried to squeeze in one more line of copy. “My turn,” said Patrick, with a glance to his right. But soon, those two voices started to mesh. A funny thing happened. One voice made the other stronger. With Olbermann’s approval, Patrick was learning to enjoy himself -- to be himself -- on the air. And Patrick’s incredible self-containment became the antidote for Olbermann’s overacting.
“If we were out there by ourselves, you would be sick of us,” said Olbermann. “But there were two of us. And just as you were about to get sick, I said ‘Dan’ or he said ‘Keith,’ and it was like, ‘Oh, I’ll stick around for that Indians highlight now.’”
Before Patrick and Olberman, Chris Berman had widened the lane for SportsCenter anchors by using gags and nicknames. “He’s sportscaster zero,” Olbermann said.
When Olbermann replaced Bob Ley as Patrick’s partner, they took the latitude Berman had gained and changed the act. Patrick and Olbermann had three good producers (the third was Norby Williamson), but they were the show’s dominant creative forces -- the showrunners, we’d say today.
The Big Show was the rare TV show that had a perfect tone. Patrick and Olbermann didn’t plan it. Neither can remember even talking about it. While preparing a show, Patrick and Olbermann didn’t kibitz much. They didn’t hang out off the air, either. “The strategy was: You write your show, I’ll write my show,” said Patrick. “We’ll meet at 11. We’ll do it live. And we’ll react in real time.”
Olbermann had learned from radio comedian Bob Elliott that the whole point of doing a two-man show should be to try to crack up your partner. That was the idea of the Big Show: that the host sitting next to you was not just your coworker but your ideal audience. “I wrote to impress him,” said Patrick, “or delivered highlights to make him laugh.”
In 1992, Patrick and Olbermann had a few big advantages. Walsh had built ESPN a giant news-gathering apparatus that gave the anchors credibility. And before smartphones or the BottomLine, viewers still depended on SportsCenter for out-of-town scores. “You’d do a 30-second on-camera teasing a highlight as if the result were in doubt,” said Van Pelt. “‘The Twins and Indians -- could the Twins keep up their momentum…?’ Now, I give you the final before the highlight, because I know you already know. It was constructed so differently because it could be.”
Between scores, Patrick and Olbermann implanted the constituent parts of today’s comic newscasts. Long before Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert used Bill O’Reilly as a comic counterweight, Patrick and Olbermann were doing the same thing with the archetypal local-news sports guy. Your local sports guy was commanding; Dan and Keith were self-mocking. Your local guy knew nothing about sports; Dan and Keith knew everything. Your local guy was an authority figure; Dan and Keith were your friends.
The Big Show didn’t have a politics, per se. But it had a kind of populism, which, in political form, is the lingua franca of funny anchorman shows today. The Big Show was against corporate stadium names. Against greedy owners. Against strike-breaking baseball players. In 1995, when SportsCenter showed highlights of the scabs at spring training, Olbermann sang, “Un-profess-ional, that’s what you are…”
Patrick and Olbermann’s great trick was conquering a genre as they made fun of it. They didn’t invent the idea of anti-TV TV, which stretches back to Ernie Kovacs and beyond. By the early ’90s, David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld were deconstructing the late-night show and sitcom, respectively. What Patrick and Olbermann did was import the tenets of anti-TV to a sportscast, at least on a big stage. They held TV grammar up for inspection, saying “Segue!” when trying to connect a lead-in to a highlight. They disassembled sports clichés.
During a 1997 highlight, Olbermann had a baseball player “lace” a single to left field. “Nobody ever ‘laces’ an out,” he said. “You notice that?” In the next highlight, Patrick had Pudge Rodríguez lace an out.
The hosts milked the idea that the big networks were stuck in a lumbering, pre-ironic state, while ESPN was having all the fun. “Those were the golden years,” said former SportsCenter anchor Chris Myers, “because we weren’t so big that people rooted against us like U.S. Steel.” And like Stewart’s disciples, Patrick and Olbermann acted like they couldn’t believe they’d been picked to deliver the news.
“I did feel that way,” said Patrick. “Like, holy shit, I’m on SportsCenter. I’m the guy who couldn’t get a job at Channel 2 in Dayton, Ohio, doing weekend sports.”
The difference between ’90s SportsCenter and a modern comedy show is that SportsCenter was much, much harder. Patrick and Olbermann had the mandate to deliver the news instead of just riff off it. They wrote their own material.
The Big Show may be the only comedy show in TV history that didn’t have a writer’s room. Two hundred nights a year on SportsCenter, as the hosts sat at their desk, a PA would run into the control room with a tape of a highlight that was set to roll within minutes. Through a headset, Williamson or McQuade or Ramsey would ask the anchor who was off-camera to give a thumbs up if he’d been handed a shot sheet. Then, as Patrick and Olbermann saw a highlight for the first time, they had to be both accurate and hilarious. “And from that grew a kind of trench-warfare humor,” Olbermann said. “Haha, we’re going to die tonight! And that led to a lot of giggling and making fun of things, particularly management.”
The Big Show became a standard textbook for young broadcasters. “We all wanted to be them,” said SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy. “And because I wasn’t capable of being them, I wanted to sit next to them.” A 2005 study found that ESPN vernacular was creeping into newspaper copy, a rare instance of sportswriters admitting TV guys had a style as clever as their own.
Often, the worst thing that can happen to two TV hosts is success. (See every morning show ever produced.) Patrick and Olbermann didn’t have that problem -- not between them, anyway. They insist they didn’t count highlights or lead-ins -- the typical way anchors keep score. They didn’t worry about the other’s salary.
“He made more than I did,” Patrick said. “I didn’t care.”
By the mid-’90s, an odd kind of convergence was happening. “It wasn’t like one was the obvious Jordan and one was the obvious facilitator,” Van Pelt said.
Indeed, Patrick and Olbermann were two very, very different people who had mastered the same skills. “Usually, when you use the word ‘interchangeable,’ it’s not meant as a compliment,” said Williamson, who’s now an ESPN executive. “This is absolutely meant as a compliment.” One day, Patrick was called away from campus to tend to an issue with one of his kids. Olbermann wrote the rest of Patrick’s lines, mimicking not only his tone but the text characters he favored in his scripts.
After the show, Patrick asked Olbermann to remind him: Which parts had Olbermann written and which parts had he written himself?
The final way the Big Show predicted the house style of TV today was its insurrectionist quality. It was a rare ESPN product: one that relied on the network and benefited from its growing power, but was conceived in at least partial opposition to ESPN.
The first problem arose from doing a national TV show in Bristol. It was a kind of isolation Patrick compared to being homeschooled.
“In the ’91 to ’95 time, the feeling in the SportsCenter newsroom was that we were creating a private newsletter in video form for people who made their livings in professional sports,” said the former anchor Jack Edwards.
On the one hand, being marooned kept the Big Show’s aesthetic pure. The hosts were performing for each other, not the backslappers they’d have run into if the show was done in Manhattan. (“Great catchphrase last night!”) On the other hand, they got none of the petting reassurances TV anchors rely on. “People think we were stars,” said Patrick. “But we weren’t. We weren’t treated that way.”
“We were not celebrities,” said Olbermann. “We were factory workers in a factory town.”
ESPN executives liked it like that. They didn’t want Patrick and Olbermann to outgrow the brand as Berman had in the ’80s. The wanted the star, singular, to be ESPN. As Patrick told me: “It’s the infamous Steve Bornstein line when I was up for contract negotiation.
He said, ‘You’re just fuckin’ talent.’ We laugh about it now. But in their minds, we were just fuckin’ talent.”
One day, Patrick and Olbermann were called into a room by their bosses and scolded for being too silly, too self-referential. According to James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’s oral history, an executive actually pounded a desk at the meeting. The hosts were told they could no longer call SportsCenter “the Big Show.”
“Keith walked out and said, ‘Fuck ’em,’” Patrick remembered. “I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Fuck ’em.’ I said, ‘Oh … OK. Fuck ’em!’”
“I think I had a soothing impact on Dan, in a perverse way,” said Olbermann. “Dan managed to find a way to channel his anger very much in the way that I channeled my anger. Let’s beat the hell out of these highlights and secretly mock management.” Patrick and Olbermann’s rebellion wasn’t as noisy as Letterman’s. Few viewers probably had any idea they were mad. It was more like there was a detectable glee in their voices that showed they were doing something they shouldn’t be.
When forced to say the show’s proper title, the anchors bellowed, “THIS … is SportsCenter” -- which might have triggered the famous Wieden+Kennedy campaign. When Olbermann reported that Rupert Murdoch would challenge ESPN with a new cable sports network, he gave out Bristol’s area code on the air. As in: Call me.
During an odd moment in a highlight (a team mascot moons a player, a player gets hit in the groin), Olbermann would adopt a falsetto and say, “Hellooooo!” -- an impression of the way ESPN executive Bob Eaton answered his phone. In battles with the bosses, Olbermann led the infantry. “I have a very high threshold for bullets,” he said. Patrick followed a few feet behind, down with the cause but fearful of the collateral damage. “I’m a fixer,” he said. But after a time, Patrick began to feel like a kid who hangs out with a schoolyard bully. “Every time we were trying to do something, and you might color outside the lines a little bit, it was freeing,” he said. “It was euphoric. You’re like, Holy shit, we’re getting away with this!”
The Big Show only lasted four and a half years, a tiny run in television.
Patrick could see the end was coming. “One night, Keith was so upset he erased his entire script,” he said. Besides the sublime tweaking of the bosses, can you imagine how tough it would be to ad-lib all your lead-ins on the air? “They would come to me to help them troubleshoot Keith,” Patrick said of management. “I said, ‘You’re not paying me enough to do this.’ And, plus, like 90 percent of the time I agreed with Keith.”
Olbermann’s departure from ESPN in 1997 is remembered as a thermonuclear event. The thermonuclear stuff, and Olbermann’s apology for some of his behavior, mostly came later. In 1997, Olbermann said, there were two last-ditch offers for him to remain on SportsCenter in some capacity, one from him and one from ABC, before he signed with MSNBC to do a news show.
Looking back 22 years later, Olbermann said he left because he wasn’t getting any happier at ESPN -- a state he blames partly on management and partly on himself -- and because of his desire, as a single man, to live in New York City. “There are other mitigating factors,” Patrick said. “But I just think he was bored. He had mastered it. … I told him one day, ‘You’ll never get this again. You’ll never have this again.’ I don’t think he realized it until he left. And then he realized it.”
When I reminded him of Patrick’s sentiment, Olbermann said, “If he’s going to insult my work with Chris Matthews, I’m going to have to ask him to step outside!” Then he added: “People would always say, ‘It must be great to go out there and have your own show.’ I was like, ‘You have to understand. I used to work with the ideal cohost.’”
“It was sad,” said producer Mike McQuade. “It’s still sad. … The idea that it only lasted for that amount of time seems absurd. Because they could still be doing it now. Could you imagine what it would be like now?”
The Big Show is one of the few pieces of ’90s content that hasn’t gotten the reboot treatment. There are ESPNers who feel it’s only a matter of time. “I keep waiting to get an email that they’re coming back, that we’re going to put Dan and Keith together,” said Levy. There have been Big Show reunions on radio and TV. In late 2005 or early 2006, Patrick and Olbermann got fairly close to a true reboot. Patrick asked Olbermann whether he’d leave MSNBC and join him on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter based in New York. Olbermann, whose political show hadn’t taken off yet, said he would.
The proposal made it past a surprising number of executives before it got snuffed out, either because of Olbermann or the New York location or both. By 2006, Olbermann was pelting George W. Bush’s administration with Special Comments, his MSNBC show had become a hit, and a reunion became impossible.
In his post–Big Show afterlife, Olbermann, who is host of the early bird 4 p.m. SportsCenter and substitute anchor on the 6 p.m. edition, feels a slight sheepishness about reusing his ’90s catchphrases. “They are very much Herman’s Hermits on tour,” he said. He tries to create new catchphrases so he’s not just saying, “He hit the ball real hard.”
In an irony many of their former colleagues appreciate, it’s Patrick who now fills the traditional “Keith” role of Bristol outsider. Years ago, ESPN asked Patrick to return to Bristol and host a single 11 p.m. SportsCenter. Patrick said he’d do it if ESPN agreed not to promote it. After a while, Patrick decided he didn’t want to do a one-off, much less do the job full time.
Beyond the fact that the Big Show’s swagger has found a home elsewhere in television, the trouble with reboots is what happens when you pull something out of the cultural past to fill a hole in the present. SportsCenter is now a more technologically sophisticated show that relies less on its hosts’ abilities to write. The whole notion of what it means to be a subversive inside ESPN has been stretched by everyone from Stephen A. Smith to Dan Le Batard to Bill Simmons.
“I’d be competing against myself again,” said Patrick. “I wouldn’t win. And I don’t want to do it if I can’t win.”
“It’s like Led Zeppelin,” he continued. “There’s no reunion tour. We did it. It’s done.”
https://www.theringer.com/2019/9/4/2084 ... nniversary