Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mr. Tony won't let me put down my iPod

[This was originally posted on my sports blog, but since I've written about The Tony Kornheiser Show here before, I figured maybe it belonged. I'll let you be the judge.]

I don't know how many people reading this were fans of Tony Kornheiser's old ESPN Radio show, but it holds a special place in my heart. To me, it was everything I could've wanted from a radio program. Not only did one of my favorite columnists and his cohorts talk sports, but they also discussed music, TV, and most importantly to me, movies (with one of my favorite film critics, Stephen Hunter).

As I'm sure many of you can relate to, I worked a few jobs in my twenties that ravaged my soul. Not that there's anything wrong with being a delivery driver, shipping/receiving clerk, or bakery manager. I worked for horrible people. But one thing that got me through many of those miserable days was that show. I could listen to it in the truck, shipping dock, or behind the counter.

I liked that Kornheiser discussed subjects besides sports (as he put it, the show was for sports fans who read the rest of the newspaper, too). And instead of athletes who generally say nothing but cliches, he talked to his colleagues, the writers who had some information and opinions to share. Best of all, it was funny. And without being stupid or resorting to juvenile "guy talk." He respected his listeners for being smart.

Actually, my love for Mr. Tony on the radio began even before those ESPN days, when I spent a week in Baltimore interviewing for an internship I eventually didn't take, and I listened to him on WTEM-AM while driving around. And when I went back to school at Iowa (which thankfully had a nearby affiliate), I actually tried to plan my class schedule around 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. That didn't work so well, and sounds absolutely crazy now.

But that was no longer a conflict for me when T.K. left ESPN Radio in 2004. (A month or so before that, however, I managed to get an e-mail read on the air, which was a small joy I was able to share with absolutely no one who cared.) And I think you could see that coming because there seemed to be quite a bit of friction (which made for entertaining radio) between Tony and his bosses over the content of the show (and his tendency to make fun of SportsCenter's talking heads). If you listen to his successor, Colin Cowherd, you can hear what the folks in Bristol likely preferred. It's polished, corporate, and slap-happy.

I don't want this to become a Tony Kornheiser Show retrospective, since you can get that at Wikipedia, but when he returned to WTEM nine months later, I was so excited I wrote about it then and just wanted to post a link to that. Gratuitous? Shameless? Whatevs.

Anyway, all of this is just a hugely long-winded way of saying that Mr. Tony is back behind the mic, doing his thing for Washington Post Radio, and it's pretty much the show he was always meant to do - some sports (largely from a D.C. perspective), with pop culture and current events. Unfortunately, his longtime loyal sidekick Andy Pollin (Andy Polley!) can't be with him this time, but he has a rotating set of cohorts to indulge his various neuroses. (TNT's David Aldridge joins him this week.)

But the best thing of all is that the new show has embraced the 21st century (which should amuse anyone familiar with Mr. Tony's curmudgeonry) and is available each day via podcast. (Even better, whoever's doing the recording and editing figured out that we don't need to hear D.C. weather and traffic.) Oh, if only I'd had this technology 10 years ago. But I am a happy man today. Of course, the show still stinks.