I probably don’t seem like a rabid sports fan, as I can’t quote many statistics and I rarely attend live games. But, over the last few years, I’ve watched the ESPN sports show Pardon the Interruption (PTI) almost daily.
I’m hooked on the good natured, playful banter between the two hosts – Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. They maintain the format with guest host appearances by folks like Dan Le Batard from the Miami Herald and Bob Ryan from the Boston Globe, to name a few. My attachment to PTI is so deep that I am disappointed when it is supplanted by an actual sporting event on ESPN, and I tune into Dan Le Batard’s deeply silly AM radio show when I’m in Florida. And, I’m planning on knitting Tony “stat boy” Reali’s bird sweater and coercing my husband into wearing it. Now if only I can get my husband to pretend that I win every game we play like Stat Boy does for Tony Kornheiser. Here’s the sign I’m a goner: they even make me interested in golf, not watching golf, but listening to them talk about it.
I like the very human perspective PTI’s hosts take on sports: games, athletes, coaches, and the media. I appreciate the silly parts – long-running jokes about the “bald brotherhood”, Uranus, and ripping on each other in a fraternal rather than mean spirited way.
I appreciate their reasoned candor about such “elephants in the stadium” as race, gender, money and our perceptions thereof. For instance, they made me think about why the media/public get more bent out of shape when black basketball players tussle than when white hockey players go at it. They actually mention womens collegiate and professional sports (not a huge part of their show, but more info than I’d get otherwise).
But I think their best feature is their manner of debate – largely positive, sometimes good natured teasing, now and then emphatic, but rarely mean-spirited. The two hosts have genuine good will for each other, the games, the coaches, and the players, and that makes the show for me. A nice break from more dogmatic role-play-ish political talking heads that had been my standard model of “debate” in the media.