Loving Mr. Tony

Few things in life give me the pleasure that I receive from listening to “The Tony Kornheiser Show.” Why is that? What makes a local, Washington, D.C. based sports talk show so entertaining? It’s simple: I love to laugh. Mr. Tony brings a smile to my face every day. Whether he talks about the irrelevance of volcanologists or offers an “in depth” analysis of Stephen Strasburg, I find myself engaged with his commentary and interested in hearing his thoughts of the day.

One learns Mr. Tony’s inner thoughts when listening to the show. These aren’t the great thoughts of a philosopher. They aren’t probing questions about the world of sports. More often than not, they focus on what Mr. Tony ate last night, what he watched this week on television, or about what’s wrong with his golf game. He talks about his daughter’s career or his son’s international travels. He talks about everything and nothing.

Tuning in is like catching up with an old friend. One feels an instant rapport with this cranky, old, curmudgeon. Mr. Tony offers an analysis of his world every morning and then brings on some friends to chat. It’s like a diner conversation. Mr. Tony talks and gets additional input from his cast of characters. These include: Super G, Jean McManus, David Aldridge, and Nigel the Brit.

During his monologues, Mr. Tony often makes a calculated assertion. He isn’t an expert on anything but has an opinion on everything. He often speculates about things that just pop into his head. Sometimes he prefaces these thoughts by saying: “I think, but I could be wildly mistaken”—and then continues his rant. Mr. Tony invites on Kevin Sheehan to correct any of his factual mistakes and then to offer the “real” news of the day.

A guest appears on the show each hour. A series of recurring guests call in each week. Michael Wilbon, Mr. Tony’s Pardon the Interruption (PTI) co-host appears every Monday, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe comes on every Wednesday, John Feinstein of the Washington Post is a Thursday regular, and Ann Hornday delivers movie reviews each Friday. Anytime there is a political story Mr. Tony invites his pal Howard Fineman of Newsweek to explain what’s going on at the White House or on Capitol Hill. If Mr. Fineman isn’t available, Chuck Todd of NBC News answers Mr. Tony’s questions.

The guests offer great insight into their various topics and they provide a necessary task for the radio program. They give the audience useful information that either magnifies or negates Mr. Tony’s view of the world.

For instance, Mr. Tony will ask what’s wrong with Tiger Woods one hour and then try to find out what volcanologists actually do in the next. He’ll ask the political guys about the Tea Party and his friends about the performance of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty.

This is an important assignment. Often times, Mr. Tony has no idea what’s going on in the world. He reads the Wall Street Post (his term for his old employer, the Washington Post) daily but often absent mindedly.

When he makes an assertion, it’s usually a satirical one. It’s like listening to a little boy. He gets excited about his subject matter and then tries to be as irreverent as possible. He wants to keep himself and his audience entertained. His goal is to keep the mood light and make the audience laugh.

He succeeds.

After the interview, he has Old Guy Radio. Mr. Tony talks about whatever is on his mind. He focuses on the television show Glee. He wonders why American Idol has gone done the tubes. This is the meat of the show and provides me the greatest entertainment because it focuses solely on Mr. Tony’s world.

Without a doubt, Mr. Tony enjoys telling his audience about his eating habits. He loves to take out friends to local D.C. restaurants and then talks about the experience the next day on the radio. Last week, he discussed his bad restaurant experience while vacationing in Delaware. When Super G asked why the meal wasn’t up to par, he told everyone that he misread the menu. He then informed us that he forgot his glasses and couldn’t read the menu clearly, so he just ordered the first thing that sounded good.

A big story occasionally erupts and forces Mr. Tony to talk about things outside his little bubble during Old Guy Radio. During natural disasters like the Gulf Oil disaster or the Icelandic volcano, he laments about the state of the world and begins preparing for the impending apocalypse. This commentary is way over the top but is also laugh out loud funny. Here is a man who makes his opinion known, without reservation.

Sometimes this goes over the top. This usually occurs when Mr. Tony makes off-the-cuff remarks. He keeps several televisions in his studio and often comments on what the networks show. He talks about a segment on the Today program or discusses a breaking news story on CNN. This spring, Mr. Tony made a crack at Hannah Storm’s apparel on ESPN (Mrs. Storm hosts the network’s morning SPORTCENTER program and often wears risqué clothing that’s unseemly for a woman of her age.) ESPN suspended Mr. Tony from his PTI duties and kept him off-air for two weeks.

The next fortnight made for great radio. Mr. Tony moped around and talked about how horrible he felt. He talked about his pariah-like status. He refused to watch television for days and feared that every channel would plaster his mug shot on screen while talking about the story. He wouldn’t check his email. He wouldn’t answer the phone. He tried to make inroads with fellow outcast David Frum (the conservative who made some pointed attacks against the Republican Party) and talked about how they needed to get together and commiserate at Maureen Dowd (the New York Times columnist’s) next Georgetown dinner party. In short, he was miserable and told everyone exactly how he felt.

It was wonderful.

This fan enjoys him for his honesty and his bluntness. Mr. Tony opines. He is often ignorant; he is often wrong; he is often stubborn; but, he tells you exactly what he thinks.

I respect that.

Why do I love Mr. Tony? He makes me laugh. He makes me think. He offers a pleasant distraction. He provides a listening environment full of camaraderie and fun. His show revolves around sports but isn’t really about sports at all. It’s about life. It appreciates the little things that make life so enjoyable.

Each day, I tune in with excitement. What in the world will Mr. Tony say today?

I never know. But I can’t wait to find out.

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