Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Now that's funny

ESPN wants to have it both ways.

ESPN wants to be funny and irreverent, then it punishes one of the few members of its broadcasting stable who actually is funny for being irreverent.

Readers of this blog may know how much I've admired the work of Tony Kornheiser, whose career in print and broadcast I've followed since our paths briefly crossed in 1973 when we were both covering a basketball tournament at Ulster County Community College, he for Newsday, I for the Freeman.

Sports fans hereabouts most likely know him from "Monday Night Football" and "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN, for which he's been a quality performer since giving up print, after years at Newsday, The Washington Post and The New York Times. There was even a brief-lived TV sitcom based on his life starring Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld" fame.

Many may not be aware Kornheiser's real strength as a broadcaster is on the radio. He's had several programs over the years based in Washington. At one time, he was on nationally on ESPN radio, which slapped him on the wrists for talking, humorously and irreverently, about others on ESPN. For the last year or so, he's been on ESPN 980 in the nation's capital with a rotating support crew and guests offering two hours sports, movies, politics, food, his life and whatever else strikes his fancy. I listen to the Podcast, which you can find here or on ITunes.

Here's what you need to know about Kornheiser's approach to himself and his program: The show's email address starts with the phrase "this show stinks".

During Kornheiser's program, he can view a bank of TV sets, the programs on which he often comments. His rants about Ann Curry, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on "The Today Show" are classic. And occasionally he'll look up and see Hannah Storm on ESPN.

Unlike the "Today" trio, Kornheiser (or Mr. Tony, as he calls himself) likes the broadcasting creds of Storm and has frequently spoken highly of her. But he doesn't always care for the way she dresses.

The self-deprecating Kornheiser will acknowledge that he's hardly the one who should be criticizing others' fashion, given his own wardrobe and his balding "orange" head. But it doesn't stop him. And everyone knows it's all in fun.

Everyone except the suits at ESPN, who last week indefinitely suspended Kornheiser from his "Pardon the Interruption" gig after he said Storm, among other things, looked "like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body."

The funny and irreverent Kornheiser was suspended for being funny and irreverent.

It says here the joke is on ESPN.
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