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Tony Dungy, Dan Patrick
NBC football analyst and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, left, works with Dan Patrick on the sidelines during halftime of the Army/Notre Dame NCAA college football game at Yankee Stadium in New York in this Nov. 20, 2010 file photo. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The fun was zapped out of ESPN’s SportsCenter when Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann did their last broadcast together in 1997. They treated sports news with humor and laughs, but knew to get serious when the topic demanded it.

Too bad Olbermann didn’t know when he had it so good.

While Olbermann departed ESPN that year, Patrick stuck around another 10 years. His ESPN afternoon radio show, which ended an eight-year run in August 2007, proved that Patrick could do more than crack one-liners (we all remember “en fuego” on SportsCenter) and showcased him as one of the most well-rounded sports broadcasters around.

Many thought Patrick was committing career suicide by leaving ESPN four years ago.

He is getting the last laugh now.

The “Dan Patrick Show,” simulcast on radio and television (including Fox Sports Midwest and Comcast Chicago) every morning from 8-11, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Patrick horses around with four of his executive crew like a bunch of frat brothers without the beer.

During breaks, they are shown on TV shooting baskets, hitting golf balls, ribbing each other and generally having a good time.

Yet, when it’s time for work, Patrick proves on a daily basis why he’s flourishing on his own and out of ESPN’s shadow. He gets name guests and puts them at ease, but also is adept at asking tough questions and getting honest answers. While many ESPN shows feature too many ESPN personnel, Patrick can offer more analysis with his wider range of guests.

Patrick also works many weekends for NBC and is the perfect studio host on Football Night in America in the fall, along with doing a weekly column in Sports Illustrated. His star has never shined so bright.

MLB: Cubs at Red Sox (Fox, today 6 p.m.; ESPN, Sunday 7 p.m.): Good thing for interleague play because these teams would never see each other with one allergic to the World Series.

NASCAR: Sprint All-Star Race (Speed, today 8 p.m.): Seeing this is an exhibition, NASCAR should just put boxing gloves on Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick and let them duke it out.

NBA playoffs: Bulls vs. Heat (TNT, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday 7:30 p.m.): Those who thought Chicago would breeze after first-game rout must have been drinking the same Kool-Aid as Stacey King.

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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