By Bob Keisser
Special to TelevisionWeek
The growth of entertainment-skewed programming in sports has a flip side. Quite a few of the most recognizable names in syndicated programming and talk shows have deep roots in sports.
Pat O’Brien may be the most notable to the Hollywood and red carpet crowd. The 16-year veteran of entertainment shows, currently anchor and host of “The Insider,” spent more than a decade at CBS Sports and has been a regular studio host on NBC’s Olympics telecasts since 1996.
Mr. O’Brien broke into the business in 1977 as a news anchor and reporter at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles. He moved to CBS Sports in 1981 and worked on NBA, college basketball and Olympics telecasts until 1990, when he joined syndicated giant “Entertainment Tonight.” He stayed there until 1997, when he moved to “Access Hollywood,” and this year jumped to “The Insider.” He’s slated to be a studio anchor next year for NBC’s Winter Olympic Games coverage from Italy.
Other notable entertainers with sports backgrounds:
The former basketball player and coach is now a weekend anchor and weekday correspondent for “Entertainment Tonight” following a decade in sportscasting. He was a studio host for a short-lived sports show on
FX, then moved to Fox Sports Net, where he was an anchor on the cable net’s “Fox Sports News,” sharing the set with Keith Olbermann. He moved from Fox to ESPN in 2002 to anchor several NBA-related shows before leaving in 2004 for the other side of the broadcast street.
The one-time college basketball player became one of ESPN’s many quick-witted, sharp-tongued “SportsCenter” anchors in 1993 before leaving in 1997 to pursue other broadcast opportunities. He landed the job as host of CBS’s “Late Late Show” in 1999 and held the chair until leaving in 2004, this time to pursue a film career. He was a supporting player in the Will Ferrell comedy “Old School” in 2003 and is in three movies to be released in 2006, including the Adam Sandler vehicle “The Benchwarmers.”
The host of his own late-night talk show on ABC once was the morning sports guy at Pasadena, Calif.-based alternative music radio station KROQ. He was later hired by Fox to provide comic relief on its NFL pregame show.
He’s not exactly in entertainment, but the Cornell grad, who has his own MSNBC news show, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” was one of the most respected sports journalists in the business due to his extensive work on cable, first at CNN, where he once used bobblehead dolls to illustrate the folly of baseball labor negotiations, and then at ESPN, where he and Dan Patrick set the anchoring standard for “SportsCenter.” He also did local sports in Boston and Los Angeles.
Now in his ninth year at “Entertainment Tonight” and his first year as an anchor, Mr. Steines played football at the University of Northern Iowa and worked in local sports in Iowa and Missouri before heading west and becoming a sports reporter/anchor at KCAL-TV in Los Angeles. He won two local Emmy Awards while at KCAL and then made his move to entertainment.