I have a confession to make. I have found that I now purposely tune into the Tony Kornheiser show. Not only that, I listen to it and I actually enjoy it. I say this with some mild embarrassment, because I am afraid that it means that I have finally crossed the invisible line that separates the young sports enthusiast from the aging and cynical sports fan. In short, I fear I have become an old sports fogy.
The Tony Kornheiser Show, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is a Washington DC-based AM-broadcasted weekday morning radio show hosted by former Washington Post sportswriter Tony Kornheiser. Most U.S. sports fans know Kornheiser due to his 2006-2008 stint on ABC/ESPN’s Monday Night Football, where he served as a color commentator next to play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico and NFL insider and former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann.
The Tony Kornheiser Show, despite its slant towards the Washington DC area sports and political scene, has a wide following. The show has listeners across the country that avail themselves of its podcast and the live streaming by the radio station. It probably helps that Korneiser does a daily 30-minute sports-headline show (PTI) on sports network ESPN in the afternoons. Still, his appeal largely transcends his local target audience.
And what is Kornheiser’s target audience? Beltway liberals and casual sports fans, mostly. He does his show with an assortment of Washington Post and other liberal snarky publication hacks who laugh at his jokes and pontificate on subjects they don’t know much about. They are there mostly because they are FOT–Friends Of Tony–and because they useful as straight men to his wise cracking self (one recurring co-host, Gary Braun, is affiliated with the radio station). In return for joining him on the air, Tony gives each of his co-hosts air time to moralize about current events and tell stories about the dumb things they have done in the last few weeks. They get paid too, of course, but that is really only secondary.
Kornheiser’s show is a sort of refugee camp for washed up Washington Post reporters. The Post has been shedding writers and reporters at a steady pace for years, and the constant attrition has meant a lot of Kornheiser’s colleagues have been kicked to the curb. There are more software engineers and website editors and bloggers than reporters at the Post these days, a trend that has accelerated since the majority owner (Jeff Bezos) of Amazon.com bought the paper from the holding company in 2013.
So given my libertarian bent, why do I listen to the show? Well, because Kornheiser is smart and funny, and prone to say things that would get most other radio show hosts fired. His influence among the media and political glitterati means the radio station can land call-in guests that none of its other broadcasts can land. Folks like political advisor James Carville, writer John Feinstein, talk show host Larry King, as well as the best ESPN analysts such as Tim Kurkjian, Ron Jaworski, and Mike Lupica. And his show’s programming is intentionally unconventional, covering a broad spectrum of topics that avoid the mainstream.
Unfortunately I also realize he often makes references to public figures, events, and even songs from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. He was born in the 1940’s, so it is understandable why he does this–but it has become a guilty pleasure for me. Guilty in the knowledge that in spite of the fact I work and live in the era of tablets, smart phones, and cloud computing, I thoroughly enjoy listening to reminiscences of the era of manual typewriters, rotary phones, and beat writer expense accounts. Ten years ago I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to Kornheiser. Now I take time to live stream his show.
I guess I just need to embrace the change in my preferences, just like I had to embrace the use of reading glasses to read normal (and not just small) print. I can’t say I have become more sophisticated or discerning–no offence to Tony. No, I suppose that I have, like a fine wine, become more mellow with a more complicated palette.
Well, that’s my story. And I am sticking to it.
Update 3/26/2017: Kornheiser’s radio show went off the air 6/28/16 and switched to from a two hour package with 80 minutes of content and half that again in commercials to a 55-60 minute podcast with sponsorships.