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How Is Keith Olbermann Like a Teenage Brazilian Soccer Stud?

(Photo: Adam Fagen)

There may be several appropriate answers to the question posed in the headline, but after reading Howard Kurtz‘s account of Olbermann’s split with Current TV in the Daily Beast, only one came to mind.

If you believe Olbermann’s camp — yes, that’s an “if” worth thinking about — the conflict came down to a simple issue: while Current was willing to pay its new anchorman $50 million, it wasn’t willing to spend the money to bring his show up to a professional standard:

[Olbermann’s show] Countdown had been “a daily logistical nightmare dating back to the very first rehearsals,” [Olbermann’s manager Michael] Price wrote back. The response showed “how completely out of touch you and Current management are with the realities of producing a first-rate show.” Viewers were even complaining that they couldn’t record the show because of incorrect settings being provided for DVR machines. The whole atmosphere “more closely resembles cable access than that of a cable news show,” and the problems were “causing low ratings … The show’s production values have actually gotten worse, not better.”

This reminded me of a section of the book Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski which discusses how op-tier European soccer clubs routinely pay millions of dollars in transfer fees to acquire the hottest young players from, say, Brazil, but then are unwilling to spend further money to properly acculturate these players to a new setting.

The counterexample to this practice is the French club Lyon. As Kuper and Szymanski write:

After Lyon signs the serious boys, it makes sure they settle. [Didier] Drogba notes enviously, “At Lyon, a translator takes care of the Brazilians, helps them to find a house, get their bearings, tries to reduce as much as possible the negative effects of moving. … Even at a place of the caliber of Chelsea, that didn’t exist.”

Lyon’s “translator” who works full-time for the club, sorts out the players’ homesickness, bank accounts, nouvelle cuisine, and whatever else.

Remember, people: everything you buy has a sticker price and then, separately, a cost of operation. To ignore the latter may be wasting the former.