Around the Horn (sometimes abbreviated ATH) is a daily, half-hour sports talk program on ESPN filmed in Washington, D.C. It airs at 5:00 pm ET, as part of a sports talk hour with Pardon the Interruption. Its official title is Around the Horn presented by Nissan. It is a production of ESPN Original Entertainment and is currently hosted by Tony Reali.
Around the Horn
premiered on November 4
, hosted by Max Kellerman
. It replaced the interview show Unscripted with Chris Connelly
. On February 2
, Tony Reali
, known as "Stat Boy" on Pardon the Interruption
, became the show's new host when Kellerman left ESPN due to a contract dispute. The show's launch team and daily production management was led by broadcast executive James Cohen
. On July 10
, the show celebrated its 1,000th episode in a show won by Jay Mariotti
. Around the Horn
and Pardon the Interruption
have a combined household rating of 788,000 homes in 2006. The 4th quarter was the most-watched quarter ever for both shows. ATH had increased ratings in 12 of the last 13 quarters through the end of 2006.
The Around the Horn
set is in the same Atlantic Video complex as the set for Pardon the Interruption
. It features the host's desk with the point triggers and mute buttons, opposite of four screens of the panelists with their score under them and the mute sign above them. Behind the host's desk is a map of the contiguous United States of America
with the mastheads of the newspapers affiliated with the show outlined in their region which include: the Los Angeles Times
, The Denver Post
, the Chicago Sun-Times
, and The Dallas Morning News
. The Cold Pizza
logo was also added near New York's place on the map when Woody Paige
was based in New York, and it was subsequently removed when Paige returned to Denver. The Boston Globe
logo was also used when the paper was an affiliate, but the sign now reads "Boston" where the Globe
's masthead was (various non-Globe
personnel, as well as several writers for the paper, are based in Boston and have appeared on the show).
Each panelist appears either within the offices of their respective newspaper, in front of a screen representing the city they're located in, or in another studio.
The current Around The Horn
format consists of the following:
- Introduction: A commercial-free transition to the opening moments of the show start with the host, Reali, introducing the panelists as "four of America's most (themed) sportswriters". For example, if the "theme word" is "indifferent", the four panelists would all do their impressions of an indifferent sportswriter. The show itself is then introduced with Reali mentioning three topics to be discussed, then exclaiming "Ten topics, one winner!" The opening theme plays, and cuts to Reali for an introduction. The panelists are then individually introduced and given time for an opening statement. Most of the panelists use this time for jokes or criticism of the host or other panelists, which can lead to points or mutes.
- The First Word: Two current sports headlines are discussed. The panelists give detailed arguments and can also give rebuttals to other panelists.
- Buy or Sell: A rapid-fire segment in which the panelists are asked to "buy" or "sell" (be for or against) three different concepts, also drawn from current sports headlines. In the first few months of this format, four topics were discussed, with each having a shorter time limit to fit between the first and second commercial breaks.
- 1st Cut: The contestant with the lowest point total is eliminated. In the case of ties, Reali often breaks them by miscellaneous things, like whose hair is better combed. If the awarding of a point causes a tie for the two lowest panelists, Reali sometimes gives the same panelist a second point to break it.
- Out of Bounds: This round is dedicated to talking about one story which is indirectly sports-related. Serious topics are usually discussed in this round, and few to no points are awarded.
- 2nd Cut: The next contestant with the lowest point total is removed, leaving just two.
- Showdown: Mentioned above, the two remaining columnists take sides on any sports or cultural stories remaining. There are two or three questions, depending on the amount of time left. Usually, the western most panelist goes first for the first topic, with the other speaking for the second half. The panelists then alternate going first for the remaining topics. Each topic is timed between 20 and 40 seconds each depending on time remaining. Reali usually gives a panelist one point per topic, although he occasionally gives more than one point or deducts points depending on the strength or weakness of the argument.
- Facetime: The winner of the showdown and therefore winner of that particular episode gets around 30 seconds (more or less depending on time left in show frame) to talk about anything he/she wishes to discuss. Most of the time these are sports related, but often their own personal life or an issue in pop culture is discussed. Lounge music is played in the background as the winner talks.
- Goodbye: Reali says how long it will be until the next episode, for example, "we're on a 23-and-a-half hour break." On Fridays, he will sign off by saying "a 71-and-a-half-hour break." If there is an extended period until the show comes back on, Reali may simply say, "You do the math!"
- Paper Toss: Signature sign-off of the show, with Reali crumpling his notes and throwing them towards the camera. As he does this, the panelists will often continue to chatter in the background as the show ends.
Before the show was retooled in early 2003
, the format was similar, wherein the first two rounds were pretty much the same but with different titles. There was a bigger difference after that. The show ran like so:
- The Opening Round: The two biggest headlines of the day.
- The Lightning Round: A quick-moving round with four topics where players had to make their points quickly or risk getting muted by Max Kellerman, the former host.
- The Bonus Round: One final topic, with the panelists trying to earn some last-second points, followed by a sports trivia question for each panelist, worth five points
- The Medal Round: The panelists earned facetime equal to their scores converted to seconds, in reverse order of their placing. The winner received a gold medal, second place received silver, third place got bronze, and the fourth place finisher was given a foil ball. More often than not, due to time restrictions, the panelists were given less time than they earned, or at least one panelist would not be given any time at all. During this round, panelists could appeal to the Disembodied Voice for more points.
The show is unique as it "scores the argument" - points are awarded or taken from panelists at the discretion of the host depending on the strength or weakness of their arguments. The rewarding - and deduction - of points has changed throughout the series. Originally, being muted cost a panelist five points. Later, while Kellerman was still hosting the show, the scoring was at its most strict: "good" answers were awarded two points, "great" answers were given three, and a mute subtracted three points from a panelist's score. Shortly before Kellerman left the show, the mute was reduced to its current -1. Around the time Reali took over the show, the host was allowed to give points at his own discretion, Reali may give a single point for a weak argument, or many points for a particularly strong case backed by statistical information. The host may also give multiple points for "inside information" that he deems correct. Points may also be taken away for self-promotion, such as bragging about a good column or a successful upset pick (According to Reali, "Self-promotion is the mating call of the mute button!) In addition, complaints about how many points that they or another panelist received, usually results in a deduction and/or mute. Reali mainly uses the mute button when a panelist interrupts another panelist, begins to ramble, or changes his or her previous opinion on a given topic.
Jay Mariotti currently holds the points record before the showdown with 56 on August 31, 2007. The record previously was 52 by Bill Plaschke in 2004.
Reali also makes bets occasionally with the panelists on sporting events, with the panelist gaining or losing a large amount of points based on the outcome. For example, in summer of 2007, Woody Paige made a bet with Reali that he could drink a gallon of water during the 30 minutes of the show. At the end, the tank was empty. On the next show, secret cameras revealed Paige dumping most of the water in a cooler. Rather than receiving the promised 100 points, Paige received several mutes.
There have been some topics, most during the Out of Bounds segment, which have not been scored due to their sensitive nature. Such examples include Bob Ryan's suspension for his comments towards Jason Kidd's wife, the Duke Lacrosse Case, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén making a homosexual slur towards Jay Mariotti, Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident, Michael Vick's dog fighting and animal abuse, and discussions of deaths. Other sensitive topics that do not award points are held at the beginning.
After Paige encouraged viewers to come up with ways to improve the scoring system, the June 19, 2008 episode was played with no scoring and no muting. This led to all four panelists reaching out of bounds and the showdown, with nobody being declared the winner.
On August 11, 2008, Michael Smith, senior writer for ESPN.com returned to the show for the first time in nearly a year and went on to win the show with 25 points over Tim Cowlishaw, J.A Adande & Woody Paige, before the show, Tony Reali said "who's that guy in Boston?" Smith will return to the show sometime later on.
During the show's long run, it has developed certain comedic long-running gags
, much like its sister show Pardon the Interruption
, that longtime viewers will recognize and casual viewers may be unable to easily comprehend. The gags revolve around the personalities of Reali and the columnists, along with their interactions. The most recognizable gag is the chalkboard
in the top-left hand corner of Woody Paige's square on which he writes witty phrases that are different for each segment of the show, usually puns, such as "I'm chalk-bored Paige started using it while in New York, then brought it back to Denver a few shows after his return.