Pardon The Interruption officially debuted 20 years ago on Friday. While the show didn’t invent the sports debate format, it certainly figured out how to perfect it for a time, even if it eventually led to the “embrace debate” culture that has subsumed sports programming today.
ESPN has been doling out various commemorations over the last month to pay tribute to the Debate House That Tony & Mike Built, and it all culminated this week with appearances from many of the biggest figures in the sports world to congratulate Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon for 20 years of fighting over mundane sports news. There were even a few notable people from outside the sports world who stopped by as well.
Perhaps no appearance was more high-profile than Friday’s special message from former President Barack Obama, who praised the duo for arguing with each other so well for so long.
— PTI (@PTI) October 22, 2021
You would presume that having Obama on would tickle Kornheiser and Wilbon but on Monday’s episode of The Tony Kornheiser Show, the longtime sports columnist and host took some time to explain that the moment was arguable the greatest honor of his life (Transcription by BSM’s Ricky Keeler):
“I read the introduction and then on the screen. They enable me to see the screen and that doesn’t usually happen. I’m usually staring into prompter or staring into Wilbon, but not what’s on television. Barack Obama starts to talk and I am stunned.
“He doesn’t just say congratulations. He goes on for about 3 minutes. He says some funny stories about us with the added benefit of being true and then he says the nicest things about the show and what the show means and how the show fits into the fabric of the United States of America and why he likes it and why he thinks it’s important. I get tears in my eyes. I’m not kidding. I am stunned by this. I had no idea this was happening.”
“At the end, what I had said to Mike [Wilbon] before we got to the segment. Look, it is some sort of taped deal, why don’t you come out of it, you say what you want to say and I’ll just take us to Big Finish. Mike’s speechless. Now I have to say something. I just said, he looks better than we do.”
“It’s the greatest honor to me. I can tell you that getting a doctorate from my school or being in the Hall of Fame at my high school. Those are great honors, but to have the former President of the United States of America tell you and tell everyone watching how much he likes the show and what the show means. That was thrilling and so generous. You can tell I was affected by this.”