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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

On Bill O'Reilly's TV Factor last Wednesday, the No-spinster kept trying to get his opponent into a clinch, interrupting nearly every sentence columnist and Fox News contributor, Ellis Henican threw that wasn't going the way Bill wanted -- which was pretty much every one of them. Body-blow, body-blow, body-blow. O'Reilly was bloodied to the point he had to be bleeped -- "Torture, my ass" -- though I'm not really sure why. We're talking cable. The only thing that saved O'Reilly was the commercial bell.

You have to give O'Reilly credit. He regularly books Henican, as well as Temple University's Professor Marc Hill, both of whom of lefties who consistently pummel Bill with flurries of facts and clear-thinking logic. On the other hand, and network -- Countdown/MSNBC -- Keith Olbermann, who although has the facts on his side, rarely (ever?) brings on anyone from the other side who disagrees with him.

At 6'4" and both weighing in at well over 200 pounds, the heavyweights are imposing figures, but they're two completely different types of brawlers. O'Reilly is willing (unaware?) that he is taking a beating while Olbermann doesn't want to mess up his hair. In boxing parlance Olbermann is Floyd Patterson -- though with a much harder punch -- a solid champion who for years ducked the killer left hand of mauler Sonny Liston, until no contenders were left. Of course, the Liston bout and the rematch ended Patterson's championship reign and for all intent and purposes, his career. O'Reilly, without much hair to worry about, has been the undisputed cable champion for years, but a great deal of that has to do with the fact that his network can be picked up with a basic programming package and has a committed-Right leaning audience, no matter how many times Bill trips over reason. Olbermann's MSNBC costs additional dollars to pick up on cable or satellite and the liberal/Democratic crowd just isn't as dedicated to a we're right every day in every way sense of Fox News viewers.

Both will say they're willing to challenge ideology and/or politico no matter which side, though with both those bouts are rare, if at all. O'Reilly claims to have no dog in the political fight, but it doesn't take more than watching one TV Factor to understand that O'Reilly smashes the left a good 99 percent of the time and when he doesn't, his camp houses plenty of hounds, name of Morris, Ingerham, Gingrich, Beck, et al to do his dirty work.

O'Reilly and Olberman make taking shots against their networks and each other a daily workout. O'Reilly uses General Electric and NBC as his punching bags, while Olbermann jabs O'Reilly, Fox News and News Corp chieftan Rupert Murdoch unmercifully during his "Worst Person of the Day" segments. These one-note attacks have all the excitement of your momma insults while shadow boxing. Neither delivers a knockout nor even necessitates a cutman. Without actually appearing in the same ring at the same time, this type of combat is pure posturing.

They'll never appear on each other's show -- O'Reilly won't even mention Olbermann's name -- but if either of them truly wants to be considered anything other than king of their own division, they have to go up against each other. Toe to toe, face to face, mouth to mouth.

I call for a neutral site. A pay-per-view Madison Garden 15 rounder would make for an event that would rival Ali-Frazier, Tunney-Dempsey, or even Riggs-King. It wouldn't hurt to make it a steel cage match. Prelims could pit Limbaugh vs Franken, Hannity vs Maddow, Matthews 2002 vs Matthews 2009. It doesn't matter who's left standing -- they'll all claim victory -- but it would be fun.

And after all, isn't that what talk shows are really about.

Award-winning TV writer and author of Great Failures of the Extremely Successful, Steve Young was an original talk show host at L.A.'s KTLK and blogs at

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Albion Monitor   April 23, 2009   (

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