PTI debuted 20 years ago. Now sports talk shows are everywhere.

Before hiring ESPN Erik Rydholm be the producer of his new talk show, Forgive the interruption, 20 years ago, he needed to meet the show’s co-host, Tony kornheiser, and explain why he would be the right fit. Rydholm came in second to the hotel dining room that day and vividly remembers Kornheiser sitting with his back against the glass as the sun silhouetted him. Kornheiser wore sunglasses.

“I couldn’t read his eyes at all,” said Rydholm. City paper. “Tony is incredibly sharp, incredibly opinionated and very acerbic. And I walked in intimidated… I felt very unsure of myself.

Rydholm eventually shared his take on what the show could be like, and during the conversation he related something in sports to Britney spears. He doesn’t remember the exact analogy, but he does remember Kornheiser’s answer. “At that point there was a point where he just said, ‘And that’s why you should be producing this show,’” Rydholm said.

Twenty years later PTI—With co-hosts Kornheiser and Michel wilbon, two elders Washington post columnists — is still on the air and remains one of the ESPN’s most popular shows, with Rydholm as a longtime executive producer. Kornheiser thought, as he put it in the recent ESPN documentary on the show’s anniversary, PTI20, that the show would last three weeks. Several key members of the team have been with the show for 20 years. Matthew Kelliher, Frankie Nation, and Matthieu Ouano on the editorial side and Tom howard and Bonnie berko on the technical production team all joined at about the same time, according to Rydholm. PTI, which is recorded at ABC News studio in DC, celebrates its 20th anniversary on October 22, and many shows, including those on ESPN, have attempted to emulate PTI With more or less success. The show revolutionized the way sports talk shows by introducing a little lightness and humor. Hosts sometimes wear costumes, and Wilbon ends by saying, “Same time tomorrow, fist heads.” In a media landscape where sports debate broadcasts are now omnipresent, PTI stands out as an original.

“I’m so proud of the longevity of the show, but I’m more proud of the reasons for the longevity of the show, or that people always look to us for entertainment and enlightenment on the world of the show. sport every day, ”Rydholm said. “I think it’s really rare.

The debates between Kornheiser and Wilbon began long before PTI was even an idea, in the To post writing. Kornheiser came to To post of New York Times in 1979 to write for the Sport and Style sections, while Wilbon, originally from Chicago, began as a summer intern at To post in 1978 before being promoted to full-time reporter two years later. The two writers worked for the sports publisher of the time Georges salomon, who fondly remembers their jokes in the newsroom and felt their personalities would suit a show like PTI. (Full disclosure: Solomon was one of my journalism professors at the University of Maryland.)

“My first thoughts were, they did this act in the office of the Washington post for years, I think America should see it too, ”says Solomon. “And I was hoping that… the country would appreciate it as much as I and many other people in the Washington post who have heard these disagreements and arguments over the years, but have seen their affection for each other.

But not everyone, as Wilbon notes in PTI20, enjoyed their constant quarrels. The sports department was located at the end of the lobby, which was at one point adjacent to the Book World section of the newspaper.

“On several occasions the publisher of Book World has said, ‘Is there a way to get them to turn the volume down? ”, Says Solomon. “And I’ll say, ‘No.’ So Book World is moving.

The same happened when the Outlook section got in and then out. Only the investigation team could handle the volume of Wilbon and Kornheiser. “They were as loud as Tony and Mike, so they didn’t have any complaints,” Solomon says.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon Credit: Randy Sager / ESPN Images

This constant argument is part of PTIcharm, according to fans of the show and those who know both Wilbon and Kornheiser. “They may differ, but it’s like [when] best friends argue… they’re still best friends, ”says Solomon. “I think that’s the chemistry that they realistically have and that they’ve developed over the years. It passes on PTI. “

In the documentary, Kornheiser succinctly explains why he believes PTI works: “The magic of this show is 11 words: ‘Black dude, white dude, yell at you, love you.’ It’s the relationship on a sports show that everyone wants. Everyone wants to be able to yell at their dear friend and then hug their dear friend when the screaming is over.

Rydholm grew up in Chicago and read the two ‘nuns’ in the To post. He also listened to Kornheiser’s radio show, watched them on legendary DC sports host George michaelTV shows and read their conversations on the To post website. Rydholm briefly worked as a producer in the Chicago office for ESPN in 1994, but left to start a finance and investment company called Motley Fool based in Alexandria. Before the launch of PTI, former boss of ESPN in Rydholm, Jim cohen, saw a sports column that Rydholm had written and asked for his thoughts on creating a daily sports show like PTI. In turn, Rydholm handed over an 18-page document explaining why and how the show could work, which earned him the post of PTIcoordinating producer. He believed he had the right ingredients to potentially last 20 years.

“What I originally relied on when we were developing the show is that I look back over the last 20 years, and there had been shows like Siskel and Ebert, … Crossfire, … [and] Sports reporters,Says Rydholm, who owns and operates production company Rydholm Projects, Inc., with which ESPN contracts. “All three shows provided analysis. All three shows were based on the chemistry of the people on them. All three shows lasted 20 years; at the time of our launch, they had already been on the air for 20 years.

To prepare each day for PTI, Rydholm wakes up at 7 a.m. and starts filling out a Google Docs with ideas for the show with the rest of the editorial team. Around 10 a.m., producers meet – virtually, during the pandemic – to discuss the topics. Kelliher, PTIthe coordinating producer of, then calls Wilbon and Kornheiser and the three get a feel for the topics of that day’s show. PTI cassettes between 4.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. then the program is broadcast at 5.30 p.m.

“Everyone knows the rhythms of their work,” Rydholm says, “and then they all intersect at a point that produces what we do.”

But in 2001, questions were raised about the viability of a daily sports talk show. ESPN was taking a risk by putting two newspaper columnists on television almost every day. Kornheiser says in the documentary that he told his staff before the show’s launch to “rent, don’t buy”.

“It was a time without all the shows you see today, so PTI was the first of its kind, ”says Rydholm. “Part of the uncertainty wasn’t just about the launch of a new show, it was, ‘Will there be enough things to say about each day that will be convincing to viewers?’”

The answer over the past 20 years has been yes, even though similar and inferior emissions have appeared. “I see them doing this for as long as they want,” Solomon said. “They are so good. People enjoy the show. And I know I do, and I hope it never ends.

Rydholm has no specific idea about other sports talk shows, but says he’s “thrilled” the whole industry is growing. “As in any industry where it seems like there is a lot of demand, there will be some products that will work and some that will not,” he says, adding that entry into the company appears to have dropped. now. with podcasts, blogs and micro-media companies. And as for PTI, Rydholm is, to quote an athlete’s cliché, to be taken one day at a time.

“Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and pick up the computer and our whole team will get to work on building tomorrow’s show,” he says. “It’s the future.”

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