Anthony Irwin "Tony" Kornheiser (/ˈkɔːrnhaɪzər/; born July 13, 1948) is a former sportswriter and columnist for The Washington Post, as well as a radio and television talk show host and restaurateur. Kornheiser has hosted The Tony Kornheiser Show on radio and podcasts in various forms since 1992, co-hosts (with Michael Wilbon) Pardon the Interruption on ESPN since 2001, and served as an analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Football from 2006 to 2008.

Personal life

Kornheiser was born and raised in Lynbrook, New York, on Long Island, where he attended George W. Hewlett High School.[3] He is the only child of Ira (1910-2000) and Estelle Kornheiser (1915-1978).

After graduating from high school, Kornheiser enrolled at Harpur College (now Binghamton University, SUNY), where he began his journalism career at the Colonial News (now called Pipe Dream)[53] and graduated with a degree in English in 1970. In May 2017, Kornheiser was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by Binghamton University.[54]

Kornheiser currently resides in Washington, D.C., as well as Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with his wife Karril.[5] They have two children, Michael and Elizabeth.[57]

On August 15, 2006, Kornheiser revealed on The Dan Patrick Show that he had skin cancer and had received treatment.[6]

As of 1990, Kornheiser was a registered Republican, although he did so because his wife was a registered Democrat and the couple wanted to "receive mailings from both sides."[59] Later, he referred to the decision to register as a Republican as a "mistake."[59] Kornheiser voted for Barack Obama during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.[3] During a podcast episode released on January 31, 2017, Kornheiser stated: "I land on the liberal side of the fence almost all the time, certainly on social issues."[3]

Kornheiser has a pronounced fear of flying and regularly goes to bed before 10:00 p.m.[62][63][3]

On July 9, 2017, Kornheiser was inducted into the Washington, D.C. Sports Hall of Fame alongside such notable names as Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.[3]

Kornheiser began his career in New York City, where he wrote for Newsday between 1970 and 1976, The New York Times between 1976 and 1979, and also worked as a teacher. Kornheiser joined The Washington Post in 1979 as a general assignment reporter in Style and Sports.[3] He became a full-time sports columnist in 1984. He also wrote columns for the Post's Style Section between November 12, 1989, and September 30, 2001.

His columns were usually sarcastic with touches of humor.[62][66] The most distinct style of his columns is that he often uses his alter ego in italics to question his points of views for self-deprecation, like "Excuse me, Tony..." According to one commentator, Kornheiser was regarded by many as "the wittiest columnist [in American newspapers]."[63]

In 1991, Kornheiser created a string of now-famous Bandwagon columns to describe the Washington Redskins' Super Bowl run that year.[66][3] He started the idea when the Redskins trounced the Detroit Lions 41-10. He officially unveiled the first Bandwagon column when the team had an undefeated 4-0 record. From then on, the Bandwagon column appeared weekly. When the Redskins advanced to Super Bowl XXVI, Kornheiser and his Post colleagues Jeanne McManus and Norman Chad rode a handcar on a railroad track decorated as the Bandwagon for a 1,200-mile journey to Minneapolis, Minnesota.[3]

In the 1990s, Kornheiser usually wrote three columns per week, which were a Tuesday column and a Thursday column in the Sports Section and a Sunday column in the Style Section. Because of his work on both radio and Pardon the Interruption, he stopped writing Style Section columns and only wrote one column a week. His last Style Section column was published on September 30, 2001.[10] His three books, Pumping Irony, Bald as I Wanna Be and I'm Back for More Cash, are the compilations of his Style Section columns.

Kornheiser was a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.[12]

He also started working for ESPN in 1997 and kept his column at the Post. As part of his ESPN Radio contract, Kornheiser wrote columns called Parting Shots for ESPN The Magazine between 1998 and 2000.

In 2005, Kornheiser started to write short columns called A Few Choice Words with his photo in the Post's Sports Section. These short, sports-related columns appeared on the second page of the Post's Sports section and were much shorter than the full-length columns Kornheiser used to write for the paper. This was the first time that the Post displayed a columnist's photo beside his column. He called these short columns "columnettes." He usually wrote three "columnettes" per week unless he had other duties. He did not write columns between April 26, 2006, and August 7, 2006, to prepare as an analyst of ESPN's Monday Night Football.

Starting August 8, 2006, he wrote columns called Monday Night Diary to describe his adventures on Monday Night Football. His short-column space was later replaced by Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog.[14]

On May 14, 2008, it was announced that Kornheiser had accepted a buyout from the Post. "I love the paper. They were great to me every day that I was there," he told Reuters. "But I don't do much for the paper anymore." Kornheiser had not written a regular column for the paper's print edition since 2006. However, Wilbon and Tony continued to tape a "Talking Points" mini online TV feature for the Washington Post until June 3, 2009 when an installment termed the final one was posted on the Post's site. In it Michael Wilbon says he thinks there will be further installments while Kornheiser seems certain it is a permanent decision management has made.

On May 20, 2010, Kornheiser said on his radio show that in fact he was fired by the Washington Post, saying "they fired me in a despicable way." On September 11, 2013, Kornheiser repeated his account: "Raju Narisetti fired me from the Washington Post and I hate his guts."[16]

Radio and podcast career

Radio era

He hosted The Tony Kornheiser Show first locally on WTEM, known as Sports Radio 570, in Washington, D.C. between May 25, 1992, and November 14, 1997. The show was then syndicated by ESPN Radio between January 5, 1998, and March 26, 2004. He was back on WTEM locally between November 10, 2004, and April 28, 2006. His show was once carried by XM Satellite Radio between February 28, 2005, and April 28, 2006.

After completing the 2006 season on ESPN's Monday Night Football, Kornheiser signed with WTWP, Washington Post Radio, to relaunch his radio show on February 20, 2007.[69][17] The show aired live from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and was then replayed from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. XM Radio carried his show on a thirty-minute delay, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., beginning March 5, 2007, on XM Sports Nation, Channel 144.[3] Kornheiser went on hiatus from the show following the June 28, 2007, broadcast because of his Monday Night Football duties. The show was hosted by David Burd and included the same supporting cast. The show was called The Tony Kornheiser Show Starring David Burd during the hiatus. Kornheiser returned to the show as the full-time host from January 21, 2008, to June 27, 2008. The show aired live from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and was replayed from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m on WWWT, and on XM Sports Nation, XM channel 144 from 8:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. He announced during this period in 2008 that he would not be back on the radio until he was done with Monday Night Football.[53]

The Tony Kornheiser Show was on the air daily Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM to Noon on Washington DC radio station WTEM (980 kHz AM) and streamed live on the station's website, ESPN980.com, until June 2016. The show was also available as a podcast which could be downloaded a few minutes after the live broadcast. There was originally a 24-hour "podcast delay", a source of many jokes amongst fans (who refer to themselves as "littles")[53][53] and show members alike.

In 2012, Kornheiser was ranked No. 8 as the 100 most important sports talk radio hosts in America by Talkers Magazine.[53] In 2016, Kornheiser was ranked No. 1 as America’s Top 20 Local Sports Midday Shows for 2015 by Barrett Sports Media.[53]

Podcast era

On June 2, 2016, Kornheiser announced that his show will be relaunched as a podcast-only show.[72][53] According to Kornheiser on June 6, 2016, the reason to do a podcast-only show was to own his content and do the podcast a little closer to his home, but the show format would still be the same as the radio show. As for what will be different, Kornheiser said his new podcast will probably be 60 to 70 minutes instead of the 80 minutes he fills on his radio show.[53] Kornheiser’s son, Michael, handled the social media ( on Twitter) for the podcast and launched a website () with information about how to subscribe.

On September 6, 2016, Kornheiser returned from his summer vacation with the first full episode of the new podcast. The first episode was titled "We're Back!!! The Tony Kornheiser Show Returns" and ran for 1 hour and 4 minutes. Kornheiser was joined by Gary Braun and Chris Cillizza in studio. ESPN's Michael Wilbon and Steve Sands of the Golf Channel were the first guests joining by phone.[53]

The podcast-only show is produced in partnership with sports talent agency IMG and on-demand audio company DGital Media. The podcast is available at 11 a.m. ET via iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn, and the show length is between 55 and 60 minutes.[53]

Television career

He appeared on a local weekly Washington Redskins TV show during the NFL football season on Washington's Channel 50 in the early 1980s with Pete Wysocki, a popular former Redskins LB and local hero, which was televised from a local restaurant/bar in Washington, D.C. called "Champions".

He appeared on ESPN's The Sports Reporters beginning in 1988. He sometimes guest-hosted the program when the then-host of the show, Dick Schaap, was away.

He was also a panelist on Full Court Press hosted by George Michael on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. during the NFL off-season until that show was canceled in December 2008 due to budget cuts.[54] He sometimes guest-hosted Redskins Report on WRC when Michael was away.

He has appeared on numerous other ESPN productions, including SportsCenter, Who's Number One?, and multiple player's/sportsman's profiles entitled SportsCentury.

Pardon the Interruption

Pardon the Interruption (abbreviated PTI) is a sports television show that airs weekdays on various ESPN TV channels, TSN, BT Sport ESPN, XM, and Sirius satellite radio services, and as a downloadable podcast. It is hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, who discuss, and frequently argue over, the top stories of the day in "sports... and other stuff" (as Kornheiser put it in the show's original promo).[78] His lively segments with colleague Michael Wilbon on the radio and on Full Court Press, which mirrored their actual discussions in the newsroom of The Washington Post, sparked the idea for Pardon the Interruption well before the end of his run at ESPN Radio.[63] As of August 2006, Pardon the Interruption is the highest rated sports talk show on ESPN. An image of his face with the caption "Why" has become a popular Internet meme. The show won a Sports Emmy Award for best Daily Outstanding Studio Show in 2009 and 2017.[54]

Monday Night Football

When Monday Night Football moved from ABC to ESPN, Kornheiser received and accepted an offer to be a color analyst on Monday Night Football in early 2006. He was originally passed over in favor of Sunday Night Football commentator Joe Theismann; however, when play-by-play man Al Michaels left ABC to call Sunday Night Football for NBC, Kornheiser was brought in alongside Theismann and new play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico.

Unlike Wilbon, Kornheiser does most episodes of PTI in-studio due to his self-admitted fear of flying. Prior to joining MNF, his last trips outside of the studio were to cover Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans and to attend the NFL owners meetings in Orlando in 2006; Kornheiser both times traveled via train, though returned from the Orlando trip via airplane. On the April 6, 2006, edition of PTI, he expressed his dismay at the amount of travel required for MNF. Though he has mentioned on his radio program that he is taking steps to overcome his aviophobia, he in fact spent a five-week period on the road traveling to mainly western MNF sites, doing PTI via satellite.

Kornheiser returned for a second season of Monday Night Football. On January 9, 2007, Kornheiser told Newsday, "If they would like to have me back, my inclination is that I would like to do it again."[54]

Kornheiser reportedly earned $1.8 million for being a Monday Night Football announcer and $900,000 for co-hosting PTI.[54]

On May 18, 2009, ESPN announced that Kornheiser would be leaving Monday Night Football due to fear of flying. Former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden has replaced Kornheiser in the MNF booth.[54]

Entertainment

The 2004–2005 sitcom Listen Up!, which aired on CBS, was loosely based on Kornheiser's life. It featured Jason Alexander as Tony Kleinman, and the sitcom's material mostly came from Kornheiser's columns (collected in I'm Back for More Cash) that he contributed to the "Style" section of the Washington Post; the columns took a humorous view of his family life.

Kornheiser had a cameo appearance as a bar patron in a 2015 episode of The Americans.[54]

Restaurant

In 2017, it was announced that Kornheiser was part of a new ownership group for a restaurant in Washington, D.C. that includes former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, TV host Maury Povich, and D.C. businessman and socialite Alan Bubes.[54]

Chatter,[83] formerly known as Chad's (also previously, Chadwick’s) is a bar and restaurant located in the Friendship Heights area of Washington, D.C.[54] The new owners intend to make several improvements, including adding a podcast studio. They hope to begin recording Tony's podcast at Chatter starting May 1, 2017.[83] Kornheiser is quoted as saying, "Did I always want to be part of a restaurant? No. But now with a podcast and trying to own my own content, the ability to put it on during the mornings or during the day and to have other people use it, that would be fun for me."[5]

Criticism

General

While earning a name as a critic of many people and organizations, he has appeared sensitive to criticism directed toward his own work.[5][5] Stephen Rodrick wrote for Slate that Kornheiser was allowed by ESPN to argue aimlessly on television and that his Washington Post column was being used to plug side projects rather than gather news from cited sources.[5] Kornheiser called on Slate, owned by the Post's parent company, to fire Rodrick.[5]

After Kornheiser's first game on Monday Night Football, Paul Farhi wrote in The Washington Post that Kornheiser had emphasized the obvious, played third fiddle, and was reminiscent of Dennis Miller "in a bad way."[5] Kornheiser responded during an interview on The Dan Patrick Show on August 15, 2006, saying that Farhi was a "two-bit weasel slug" and his own newspaper had back-stabbed him. His response generated more criticism from The Washington Post[5] and other media outlets. Other criticism has come from Toronto Argonauts play-by-play commentator Mike Hogan, who said, "The thing that really bothers me is that Kornheiser doesn't seem to know his place. If you're there for comic relief, that's one thing. But for God's sake, leave the football analysis to guys who actually played the game." Former NFL offensive lineman Mike Schad also criticized Kornheiser, saying that "when people watch a game, they want to learn something. I don't need a guy who's sarcastic or trying to be funny. I love listening to Ron Jaworski on Monday Nights. He played the game and has lots of good insight and Kornheiser just gets in his way."[5]

Mike Golic, an ESPN colleague of Kornheiser's, who had expressed skepticism regarding his prospects as an on-air analyst because he was never an athlete,[5] said that his performance on MNF was "fine." Kornheiser's response was, "I just want to wring Golic's neck and hang him up over the back of a shower rod like a duck."[5]

Controversial remarks

During a Monday Night Football telecast on September 15, 2008, Kornheiser made a comment about a clip of the ESPN Deportes crew's call of a Felix Jones touchdown, saying, “I took high-school Spanish, and that either means ‘nobody is going to touch him’ or ‘could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning.’” Later in the broadcast, Kornheiser apologized on-air for the remark.[33]

On February 23, 2010, various news sources reported that Kornheiser had been suspended from ESPN for two weeks for comments he made on his radio show about fellow high-profile ESPN personality Hannah Storm's wardrobe that day.[6]

Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She's got on red go-go boots and a Catholic school plaid skirt. Way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now. And she's got on her typically very, very tight shirt. So she looks like she's got sausage casing wrapping around her upper body. I mean, I know she's very good, and I'm not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, so I won't ... But, Hannah Storm, come on now! Stop! What are you doing? ... [She's] what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.

— Tony Kornheiser[35]

In March 2010, Kornheiser commented: "The last time I looked, the roads were made for automobiles...We're going to be dominated as if this was Beijing by hundreds of thousands of bicyclists...They all wear … my God … with the little water bottle in the back and the stupid hats and their shiny shorts. They are the same disgusting poseurs that in the middle of a snowstorm come out with cross-country skiing on your block. Run 'em down...Let them use the right, I’m okay with that. I don’t take my car and ride on the sidewalk because I understand that’s not for my car… Why do these people think that these roads were built for bicycles? ... They dare you to run them down.” Cyclist Lance Armstrong replied. "Disgusting, ignorant, foolish. What a complete f-ing idiot."[36] Kornheiser later apologized to Armstrong on-air and offered to go on a bike ride with him.[37]

In June 2010, Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers criticized Kornheiser's performance on Monday Night Football, saying: "He's terrible...I don’t think he’s funny. I don’t think he’s insightful. I don’t think he knows, really, anything about sports.”.[38] Rodgers also criticized ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski and other ESPN employees during the interview. Kornheiser responded in an interview by saying: "If he thinks I’m no good, he wouldn’t be the first. Or the last.” and "I tried to establish some rapport with that. I guess that rapport didn’t exist.” [39]

In October 2015, Kornheiser was interviewing Huffington Post editor Howard Fineman about the conservative movement in Congress when he asked if Tea Party members are “like ISIS trying to establish a caliphate here,” which Fineman called a "good analogy" but without the violence.[122] ESPN refused to comment on whether he would be punished for his comments.[124]

White House visits

On July 12, 2013, Kornheiser, Wilbon and Reali were guests at the White House. After lunch the trio met in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama. Obama invited Kornheiser to play golf with him the following day, which happened to be Kornheiser's 65th birthday.

Kornheiser also played golf with Obama in September 2013 and June 2014.[42] He played with the President again in July 2014,[57] July 2015,[57] and May 2016.

Books

  • Kornheiser, Tony (1983). The Baby Chase. New York: Atheneum. pp. 212 pages. ISBN 0-689-11354-4. 
  • Kornheiser, Tony (1995). Pumping Irony: Working Out the Angst of a Lifetime. New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-2474-6. 
  • Kornheiser, Tony (1997). Bald as I Wanna Be. New York: Villard. pp. 304 pages. ISBN 0-375-50037-5. 
  • Kornheiser, Tony (2002). I’m Back for More Cash: a Tony Kornheiser collection (Because You Can’t Take Two Hundred Newspapers into the Bathroom). New York: Villard. pp. 379 pages. ISBN 0-375-50754-X.