ESPN host Keith Olbermann offered an on-air farewell to David Letterman on Wednesday, while expressing hope that the Late Show host would resurface — even if it meant competing against him.
“David Letterman is the David Letterman of sports,” Olbermann said. “And if he’s serious about staying on television, I hope he considers doing it in television sports. Of course, he’s so good he’d get the rest of us canceled or fired. But I, for one, am willing to make that kind of sacrifice.”
While Letterman is set to depart his late-night run after Wednesday night, he did express hope last month that “maybe one day” he would resurface in a different role.
Olbermann argued that, aside from his innnovative take on the talk-show format, the Indiana native’s enthusiasm for sports was underrated. The former SportsCenter host recalled that Letterman would drive to the ESPN studios in Bristol on Sunday mornings to watch Formula One races, and also sent a telegram to the then-fledgling sports network commending them on their America’s Cup coverage, saying, “It could be bigger than wrestling.”
While Letterman was ultimately wrong on that count, Olbermann said, his love for sports shone through during his tenure at NBC and CBS, where he poked fun at the sports world while also respecting it.
“There is an argument to be made that David Letterman did so much sports stuff that he is — in this narrow and probably meaningless sub-set — the top sports humorist of the last 35 years,” Olbermann said.
He also recalled his disbelief that a now-defunct Los Angeles newspaper promoted a story on him by saying, “They call [Olbermann] the Letterman of sports”:
“Nobody ever called me that,” Olbermann insisted. “The fact [was] that the only similarities between us in 1986 was the fact that we each smoked too many cigars.”
Watch Olbermann’s commentary, as posted online on Wednesday, below.