Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on Thursday marked the 19th anniversary of their ESPN gabfest, "Pardon the Interruption."
Covid-19 has brought a new dimension to the program: Kornheiser broadcasting from the attic of his home while Wilbon's stationed in the show's Washington studio, or his places in Chicago or Arizona.
A softer, more melancholy Kornheiser, with flashes of his old curmudgeonly wit, has become a cultural icon of America in quarantine.
Wearing a jaunty straw fedora in his closing "happy time" segment, and always immaculately dressed in coat and tie, Kornheiser expresses our work-at-home resilience.
Enjoying Kornheiser and Wilbon's odd-couple neo-vaudeville act through the years, along with exasperation at Wilbon's shameless name-dropping and homerism, I regret Kornheiser's loss to American print journalism.
While Kornheiser's a brilliant TV humorist/commentator, he was one of America's best newspaper columnists when he wrote for the Washington Post.
Along with producing two sports columns a week, he wrote a satiric piece for the Sunday Post's Style section. His barbs, one-liners and capsule commentaries sparkled and stung like those of San Francisco's Herb Caen.
I remember going up to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's library on dinner breaks to read Kornheiser's Sunday Style columns. While enjoying Kornheiser's TV performances, I also wish he would have progressed as a writer, with a career similar to that of novelist and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen.
Fellow sportswriter Bob Ryan at the close of PTI spinoff "Around the Horn" Thursday saluted Kornheiser and Wilbon's achievement. But in calling PTI the progenitor of ESPN talk shows, Ryan neglected the pioneering "Sports Reporters."
For years, the Sunday morning panel show showcased sportswriters like Mitch Albom, Mike Lupica, John Feinstein and Bill Conlin.
First hosted by great writer and TV commentator Dick Schapp, and later by the urbane John Saunders, the show offered cerebral conversation rather than the faux contentiousness of "PTI" and "Around the Horn." Kornheiser and Ryan often appeared on "The Sports Reporters."
Broadcasting from home, the 72-year-old Kornheiser has given "PTI" a new resonance. While jousting with Wilbon with his old sarcasm, Kornheiser also displays the melancholy wisdom of a Jewish sage.
Kornheiser in the attic is vintage TV. I just hope he's spending his extra time at home writing his memoirs, a likely classic of American journalism.