Keith Olbermann Signs Off His Final Countdown

Keith Olbermann Signs Off His Final Countdown


From the January 21 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

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OLBERMANN: I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told: that this is going to be the last edition of your show. You go directly to the scene from the movie Network, complete with the pajamas and the rain coat, and you go off on an existential, other-worldly verbal journey of unutterable profundity and vision; you damn the impediments, and you insist upon the insurrections; and then you emit Peter Finch's guttural, resonant "so," and you implore. You will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell. Well, you know the rest.

In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative. When I resigned from ESPN, 13 and a half years ago, I was literally given 30 seconds to say goodbye at the very end of my last edition of Sports Center. As God is my witness, in the commercial break just before the emotional moment, the producer got into my ear piece, and he said, "Um, can you cut it down to 15 seconds so we can get in this tennis result from Stuttgart?" So I'm grateful that I have a little more time to sign off here.

Regardless, this is the last edition of Countdown. It is just under 8 years since I returned to MSNBC. I was supposed to fill in for the late Jerry Nachman for exactly three days. Forty-nine days later, there was a four-year contract for me to return to this nightly 8 p.m. time slot, which I had fled four years earlier. The show gradually established its position as anti-establishment, from the stage craft of Mission Accomplished, to the exaggerated rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq, to the death of Pat Tillman, to Hurricane Katrina, to the nexus of politics and terror, to the first special comment.

The program grew, and grew thanks entirely to your support with great rewards for me, and I hope for you too. There were many occasions, particularly in the last two and a half years, where all that surrounded the show -- but never the show itself -- was just too much for me. But your support and loyalty, and if I may use the word insistence, ultimately required that I keep going. My gratitude to you is boundless, and if you think I have done good here, imagine how it looked from this end, as you donated $2 million to the National Association of Free Clinics, and my dying father watched from his hospital bed transcendentally comforted that his struggles were inspiring such overwhelming good for people he, and I, and you would never meet, but would always know.

This may be the only television program wherein the host was much more in awe of the audience than vice-versa. You will also be in my heart for that and for the donations to the Cranick family in Tennessee, and these victims of governmental heartlessness in Arizona, to say nothing of every letter, and email, and Tweet, and wave, and handshake, and online petition.

Time ebbs here, and I want to close with one more Thurber story. It is still Friday. So let me thank my gifted staff here and just a few of the many people here who fought with me and for me: Erik Sorenson, Phil Alongi, Neal Shapiro, Michael Weisman, the late David Bloom, John Palmer, Alana Russo, Monica Novotny, my dear friends Rachel Maddow and Bob Costas, and my greatest protector and most indefatigable cheerleader, the late Tim Russert.

And now let me finish by turning again to this ritual of reading Thurber stories to you. I read these to my late father in the hospital last winter and then to you at his specific suggestion. It is from Fables For Our Time and Modern Poems Illustrated, published first in 1940 when they taught those - they taught these kind of things, the Aesop's fables, much more than they do now. This one is called "The Scottie Who Knew Too Much," by James Thurber.

Several summers ago there was a Scottie who went to the country for a visit. He decided that all the farm dogs were cowards because they were afraid of a certain animal that had a white stripe down its back.

"You are a pussycat and I can lick you," the Scottie said to the farm dog who lived in the house where the Scottie was visiting. "I can lick the animal with the white stripe too. Show him to me."

"Don't you want to ask any questions about him?" said the farm dog.

"Nah," said the Scottie. "You ask the questions."

So the farm dog took the Scottie into the woods and showed him the white-striped animal, and the Scottie closed in on him, growling and slashing. It was all over in a moment, and the Scottie lay on his back.

When he came to, the farm dog said, "What happened?"

"He threw vitriol," said the Scottie, "but he never laid a glove on me."

A few days later the farm dog told the Scottie there was another animal all the farm dogs were afraid of.

"Lead me to him," said the Scottie. "I can lick anything that doesn't wear horseshoes."

"Don't you want to ask any questions about him?" said the farm dog.

"Nah," said the Scottie. "Just show me where he hangs out."

So the farm dog led him to a place in the woods and pointed out the little animal when he came along.

"The clown," said the Scottie. "A pushover."

And he closed in, leading with his left and exhibiting some mighty fancy footwork. In less than a second, the Scottie was flat on his back, and when he woke up the farm dog was pulling quills out of him.

"What happened?" said the farm dog.

"He pulled a knife on me," said the Scottie. "But at least I've learned how you fight up here in the country, and now I'm going to beat you up."

So he closed in on the farm dog, holding his nose with one front paw to ward off the vitriol and covering his eyes with the other front paw to keep out the knives. The Scottie couldn't see his opponent, and he couldn't smell his opponent, and he was so badly beaten that he had to be taken back to the city and put in a nursing home.

Moral? It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.

"The Scottie Who Knew Too Much," by James Thurber.

Chris Hayes filling in for Rachel Maddow on The Rachel Maddow Show is next. Again, all of my greatest thanks. Widen the shot out just a little bit so we can do one of these last time. Thank you, Brian.

Good night, and good luck.

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