"I think the same fantasy popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told: 'This will be the last edition of your show.'
You go directly to the scene from the movie 'Network' complete with the pajamas and the raincoat and go off on an existential otherworldly verbal journey of unutterable profundity and vision. You damn the impediments and you insist upon the insurrections and then you insist upon Peter Finch's gutteral, resonant, 'So.' And you implore, you will the viewer to go to the window, open it, stick out his head and yell … Well, you know the rest.
In the mundane world of television goodbyes, reality is laughably uncooperative. When I resigned from ESPN 13-and-a-half years ago, I was literally given 30 seconds to say goodbye at the end of my last edition of "SportsCenter." With God as my witness, in the commercial break before the moment, the producer got into my earpiece and he said, 'Um, can you cut it down to 15 seconds so we can get in the tennis result from Stuttgart?' So I'm grateful that I have a little more time to sign off here. Regardless, this is the last edition of 'Countdown.' It is just under eight years since I returned to MSNBC. I was supposed to fill in for exactly three days; 49 days later, there was a four-year contract for me to return to this nightly 8 p.m. time slot, which I had fled four years earlier.
The show gradually established its position as anti-establishment with the stagecraft of 'Mission Accomplished' to the exaggerated rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq to the death of Pat Tillman to Hurricane Katrina to the nexus of politics and terror to the first 'Special Comment.' The program grew and grew entirely with thanks to your support, and there were rewards for me and I hope for you, too.
There were many occasions, particularly in the last two-and-a-half years, where all that surrounded the show — but never the show itself — was too much for me. With your support and loyalty, if I may use the word 'insistence,' ultimately required that I keep going. My gratitude to you is boundless and if you think I have done any good here, imagine how it looked as you donated $2 million to the National Association of Free Clinics. And my dying father watched from his hospital bed, trancendentally comforted that his struggles were inspiring such good for people he and I and you would never meet, but would always know.
This may be the only television program wherein the host the much more in awe of the audience than vice-versa. You will also be in my heart for that, and for the donations to the family in Tennessee and these victims of governmental heartlessness in Arizona, to say nothing of every letter and e-mail and tweet and wave and handshake and online petition. Time ebbs here and I want to close with one more Thurber story. It is still Friday.
Let me thank my gifted staff and a few of the many people who fought with me and for me: Eric Sorenson, Neal Shapiro, Michael Weiss, David Bloom, John Palmer, Alana Russo, Rachel Maddow and Bob Costas and my greatest protector and most indefatigable cheerleader, the late Tim Russert."