Posted: Tuesday September 12, 2006 1:06AM; Updated: Tuesday September 12, 2006 11:49AM
4. Tony Kornheiser, story subject
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Upon reading Farhi's story, Kornheiser channeled his inner Keyser Soze, saying he would gladly run over Farhi "with a Mack truck given the opportunity." Kornheiser has every right to blast his critics, and with ESPN's multiplatform empire, he can kill a critic in every time zone around the world. (Dude, feel free to knock me anytime as long as you mention SI.com.) But it's a curiously thin-skinned move for a man who has spent three decades hammering athletes and Washington nudniks. The CharlotteObserver's terrific columnist Scott Fowler hit the perfect note when he wrote, "Kornheiser -- whom I've known in a general way for close to 20 years, since I was an intern at The Washington Post -- should have let it go. Instead, he called Farhi a 'two-bit weasel slug' on a radio show and said his own newspaper had back-stabbed him. That was ridiculous. Hopefully, Kornheiser's skin is thickening. It's not like the sports TV world he has joined is a model of wit and insight." It's equally ridiculous given that most of the profiles and stories written about Kornheiser have featured the kind of positivity Mark McGwire promised before the House Government Reform Committee. I've said it before: No broadcaster will ever get better initial press than Kornheiser, because 1) he has worked as a sportswriter for decades, and 2) he has a personal relationship with many who are writing about him. Which brings us to ...
5. Jason Whitlock, Kansas City Star sports columnist
Speaking of peace and goodwill toward men, Jason Whitlock, the Kansas City Star columnist, occasional guest host of PTI and brilliant promoter of all things Whitlock, recently wrote about having dinner with Kornheiser at the broadcaster's home in D.C. It's worth reading for three reasons: Whitlock is a talented writer, the piece offers a slice of Kornheiser's life behind the makeup, and it's likely the Star's first-ever printing of the phrase "Jew Canoe," which Kornheiser used to describe his 2006 Cadillac CTS. If SI.com ever lets me write about Rick Reilly and Peter King, I now have the precedent to use "boychick," "bubbala" and "bupkes."
6. Michael Wilbon, Washington Post sportswriter and ESPN talk-show host
This may be a discussion for another time, but I contend that Michael Wilbon would have been a more interesting choice as an on-air football analyst. For starters, he's a football wonk, and as a columnist he's in my top five along with his colleague Sally Jenkins, the Roger Federer of columnists. Wilbon admirably stood up for his boy during an online chat with Post readers in late August: "There are always jerks in features and news sections insulting sportswriters and I, for one, come out swinging," he said, defending Kornheiser following Farhi's column. "Way too many of them think they're superior in talent when they're not." Kornheiser should take a page from the politicians who roam his city: Let your friends defend you when you get ripped. It always comes off stronger. Which brings us to ...
7. Mike Tirico, ESPN Monday Night Football play-by-play announcer
Am I the only one who finds it amusing that the most important on-air person for the Monday Night telecast -- the guy who calls the game -- has received the least amount of attention? Mike Tirico recently cracked on those comparing Kornheiser to Dennis Miller: "I think that's the worst comparison out there," he said. "The first time Dennis Miller was credentialed to do an NFL game, it was the preseason game in Canton. When Tony was credentialed for our first preseason game, it was the 35th year that he'd been credentialed to do an NFL game." Agreed. The better comparison is comparing Tirico with Al Michaels. To be continued on that front.
8. Tony Kornheiser, asset builder
Every sportswriter on television (especially ESPN colleagues Woody Paige and Skip Bayless) owes Kornheiser and Wilbon a thank-you note. Their successful bantering opened the door for similar shows across the country and helped legitimize sportswriters as valuable properties on television (we'd be remiss if we didn't also give a nod to WGN's now-departed The Sportswriters). Most PTI ripoffs are lame, but that's not the point: If it means more jack and airtime for my fellow writers, I'm for it.