On Sunday, ESPN announced that it was suspending production on its Washington D.C.- based shows “for the moment.” That means we won’t be seeing Pardon the Interruption on ESPN’s daily schedule for the time being.
While coronavirus and social distancing concerns were surely the main consideration behind the decision, PTI was bound to suffer very soon from the same problem the entire sports and sports media worlds are now facing. With no sports being played, what is there to talk about?
NFL free agency, with the player movement and big contracts that come with it, provides topics to analyze and discuss. But ESPN also has shows like NFL Live and special editions of SportsCenter to cover news and provide analysis. Though PTI offers Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon, and the show’s frequently lighter tone — with viewers who tune in for that — the content may not have stood out that much.
Additionally, as Kornheiser mentioned on his daily podcast Monday, PTI would’ve been off later this week while NCAA Tournament games were being played. He was originally planning to play golf with his son in Florida until coronavirus measures rendered that problematic.
Wilbon is a guest every Monday on Kornheiser’s podcast so the topic of PTI‘s hiatus was bound to come up. But the two also wondered what they might talk about once the show returns if sports still aren’t being played. And Kornheiser suggested that their collective careers covering sports could possibly be mined to some content.
The conversation begins at the 14:50 mark:
“I look forward and I don’t see any return date that makes sense to me,” Kornheiser said, “and I think if we’re going to do a show, my suggestion was — there’s not really going to be much news — to lean on the fact that both you and I […], from 1975 to 2015, have been to every spectacular, dramatic sporting moment that’s happened.”
“It’s like a history lesson, you could talk about these things — in case anybody cared about that — and we could even bring people on who participated in some of these things because they’re long gone from sports. The most obvious example to me is you and I were both at the game where Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record, and Cal could come on to talk about that.”
What Kornheiser proposed essentially sounds like a sports history podcast. With their careers as veteran Washington Post columnists, he and Wilbon can offer a first-hand perspective of whatever events are covered. And as Kornheiser mentioned, between their connections and the power of ESPN, the show should be able to get any pertinent guest who was involved in those circumstances.
Of course, the hope is that the world returns to some sort of normalcy eventually and PTI can begin talking about sports along with the rest of us. But when that “eventually” will be is the big, important question, one that Kornheiser has obviously been pondering in the face of so much uncertainty.
(Meanwhile, The Tony Kornheiser Podcast won’t have any more episodes this week and will also probably be suspended with no sports to talk about. Though he and his regular guests could likely think of other topics to discuss. Kornheiser complaining to Nigel and Gary Braun about self-quarantining might be entertaining. But maintaining social distancing in a small recording studio would be a major issue.)
If and when it’s safe to return to ESPN’s Washington, D.C. studios, is Kornheiser’s idea something that would interest viewers? Obviously, this would be a very different show than the fast-paced PTI. (The multiple topics, timers, and segments applied to this would certainly be a curious approach.) Put the creativity of executive producer Erik Rydholm and his team behind it, and something special could be the result.
But with no live sports to watch or discuss, any possibility holds more appeal than it may have even just a few days ago.