Whether you love or hate him, you have to appreciate Keith Olbermann's passion - especially if you agree with him. His monologue tribute to ailing hockey legend Gordie Howe is something I agree with. And I appreciate him for taking the time.

I live in Texas now (strangely, so does Gordie), and hockey's place in the culture here isn't what it is in Michigan. A lot of people here might not wrap their brains around Keith's admission that in his time, Howe was, "Greatest player in hockey history. As an all-around athlete, probably exceeded by Babe Ruth, maybe one or two others.". Here's Olbermann's full tribute.

I met Gordie Howe in somewhat similar fashion that Olbermann did - as a young kid who was "terrified" to see him at a Team USA exhibition hockey game in 1980. My brothers and I didn't have good seats, and it wasn't a particularly important game. But Gordie was there with his grandson, and he sat down next to me and my brothers. I was afraid to talk to or look at him, but we exchanged a few kind words that I don't even remember. I do remember that about half of the crowd on hand had made their way to meet the legend sitting next to me and get his autograph. He was a kind to everyone, even when some fans blocked his grandson's view of the game.

I never got his autograph, because I didn't want to put him out. Little did I know, he probably would have gladly signed anything for me, and then remembered meeting me 20 years later.

I never saw Gordie Howe play, except on highlight reels. But I read several books about him, heard numerous stories from my dad and others who had the good fortune to see him in action, testifying to his greatness. Olbermann isn't alone with his thoughts on Howe. And Keith will probably admit that he could have gone on for his entire show putting the legend's life and career into perspective.

As Gordie Howe's health declines, his family posted this on his official website:

The Howe family would like to thank friends, family and fans for your overwhelming well-wishes, prayers and support for Gordie. He suffered a significant stroke on Sunday morning while at his daughter's home in Lubbock, Texas. His condition remains guarded although he is showing some signs of improvement. We acknowledge that there is a long road to recovery ahead, but Dad's spirits are good and his competitive attitude remains strong.
Anyone wanting to send cards or letters of support to Gordie, please send to:
Gordie Howe
c/o Texas Trailer Corral
12207 HWY 87
Lubbock, TX 79423

Personally, it's difficult to hear news of Howe's deteriorating condition, but at age 86, I would say his mark as a hockey player and a human being will be in my memory forever.