On Friday, Around the Horn celebrated its 10th anniversary with an epic 30-minute episode featuring nearly all of the show’s current panelists, and a spectacular opening featuring former host Max Kellerman and “The Disembodied Voice,” aka creator/producer Bill Wolff.
The anniversary show was, in my mind, an instant classic that was about as perfectly crafted as it could have been.
If you missed it, Tony Reali announced on Twitter that it will be uploaded on to YouTube next week, and I would highly recommend that you watch it.
Host Tony Reali
I can’t remember exactly when I started watching Around the Horn. It has to have been at least 6 years ago, but I didn’t ever see the show during the Max Kellerman era. Anything I’ve seen with him has been through YouTube, which is a very limited amount, so I can’t really comment on how high quality of a host he was, though he seemed pretty good from what I saw.
However, I can comment on the hosting abilities of “Stat Boy” Tony Reali.
There is a vast amount of talented hosts and other personalities at ESPN, but for my money Reali tops the list. He is able to mix sports, pop culture references, and his always interesting puns together with ease, and he manages the fast-paced nature of the show tremendously. His signature “23 and a half hour break” sign-off and paper toss at the camera is also a brilliant ending to the show.
I hope that Reali continues to host Around the Horn for years and years to come, because I really believe that he is perfect for the show in every aspect. If he ever does leave (God forbid that day ever comes), there will be Shaq-sized shoes to fill for whoever would step in to replace him.
Reali isn’t the only thing that makes this show unique, however.
There is the scoring system that really makes no sense (which is the beauty of it); the mute button (perhaps the greatest invention of the 21st century…Reali really should moderate a presidential debate with it); and all the other interesting quirks of the show. But the real lifeblood of the show is the panelists, each of whom brings something special to ATH.
You have Woody Paige, the star panelist of the show with his trademark chalkboard and his unique humor. Paige is my personal favorite, and I’m not quite sure why because I disagree with him like 80% of the time. But he’s just great.
There’s Tim Cowlishaw, perhaps the funniest guy on the show (refer to Behind the Horn YouTube clips), and the show’s resident NHL/NASCAR fan and BCS supporter.
Bomani Jones hasn’t been on Around the Horn for too long, but he’s been a great addition, bringing some brashness and a style that the show had really never seen.
There’s also J.A. Adande and his “Lounge”; “The Professor” Kevin Blackistone; Bill Plaschke (who’s always ready to declare a playoff series over after Game 1 or 3); “The Human Encyclopedia” Bob Ryan; Plaschke’s “love interest” Jackie MacMullan; Israel Gutierrez (who did a killer Obama in the last Halloween episode, but it wasn’t quite as good as Cowlishaw’s legendary Al Davis); plus Michael Smith & Jemele Hill, both of whom had their careers greatly boosted by the show.
And while they’re never afraid to bicker on the air, the chemistry between America’s top sportswriters really is excellent. Just watch the Behind the Horn videos on YouTube, which themselves were another brilliant brainchild of Reali and the production team. I usually browse through the Behind the Horn videos once a week; there is some hilarious stuff on there.
The show gives you some of America’s finest sports writers’ opinions on the biggest topics of the day, but the scoring concept is what really what gives the show its uniqueness. Plus, the scoring and win totals give the viewers something to root for.
I can remember when Woody Paige set the scoring record at 71 on the show after Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, which was also the show where Reali unleased a “wave of MUTElation” on Bomani Jones and moreso Bob Ryan for going against Denver.
There’s always the cool moments when a panelist reaches a victory milestone, most recently Paige reaching 400 and Cowlishaw reaching 300. And who could forget the 2009 April Fool’s Day episode where Paige hosted the show, an instant classic no doubt.
My favorite moment in Around the Horn history, however, was Woody Paige taking advanage of J.A. Adande’s “in order to win tournaments, you have to win tournaments” comment to come back from 13 down to leapfrog Adande and avoid being cut.
“The Best Television Has To Offer”
There is just so much about the show, especially the running gags, that’s appealing to me and many others.
The Woody Paige-Jay Marriotti rivalry was always great; Woody’s mom winning the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket pool was beyond awesome; and Plaschke’s bracket finishing in the 100th percentile of the nation was very impressive. Not to mention the always entertaining Halloween episode each year, where Around the Horn fans never tire of seeing Tim Cowlishaw show off his epic Al Davis impersonation.
The additions of the year-end Tournament of Champions that started last year and the “Games of Competitive Banter” that occurred during the Olympics were also priceless entertainment, and I hope they are a mainstays on the show.
All this and more makes Around the Horn something completely unique, unlike anything else in TV history.
I look forward to 4:00 every day to watch Reali & Co. dissect the day’s hottest topics with humor and wit. But when there’s a serious topic at hand, the panelists will remind you why they are the best of the best in the nation at what they do.
When it comes to Around the Horn, this one thing I know is true: it’s the best show on ESPN, and in my opinion, the best television has to offer.