PTI Podcast - Pardon The Interruption
In a time of programming where attention spans are limited as well as being competed for by countless arrays of content through traditional television and digital media, Pardon The Interruption (PTI) from ESPN may have crafted the perfect broadcast formula to attract and retain the fleeting minds of the sports fan masses.
While ESPN, a once undeniable juggernaut of a network and brand, seems to be fledgling with foundational highlight shows like Sportscenter feeling tired and trite, PTI has seemingly only grown cooler and more current with the times.
The topic preview board, countdown timers, and quick-hit debates between co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are perfectly suited for an era of content that is consumed on the go and preferably in bite-sized chunks.
Sure there are thriving, long-form content producers out there with massive audiences, like Joe Rogan’s platform, but the sped up and in your face style that PTI delivers is crafted to appeal to our modern-day content consumption habits, especially for daily topical programming.
Beyond the countdowns, buzzers, and second long video clips, there is chemistry shared between Wilbon and Kornheiser that is unlike many other broadcasting teams in media. Their friendship and respect for each other are palpable.
As an audience, we feel like we are getting a private seat in the kitchen of two old buds sipping coffee and having an intimate and often passionate discussion over their shared love for all things sports.
They poke fun at each other, constantly challenge each other’s points of view, and press one another for their heartfelt perspective on all the day’s most interesting sports topics.
They often get heated regarding the stories they cover and are never lacking for an urgent thought on whatever sport they are covering.
Whether pro football, women’s soccer, on or off the field issues, Kornheiser and Wilbon hold court with a vast knowledge of sports and an ability to entertain while conveying their thoughts with conviction.
PTI is nearing a commendable 20 years of broadcasting having debuted back in October of 2001. The show owes its geographic roots to our nation's capital of Washington DC with both Kornheiser and Wilbon having been employees as writers for The Washington Post.
The show has amassed some high-profile viewers over the years with notable names like David Letterman, Bill Murray, and president Barack Obama all proclaiming themselves as fans of the show.
The Topic Sidebar
PTI struck production gold when they debuted the topic sidebar on their show. It seems like such a simple concept for any style of a talk show or news broadcast, to visually alert viewers to the topics that will be discussed, but one that was never truly brought into the television zeitgeist until pioneered by PTI.
It is often just a single word like “brawl” or an athlete's last name like “Wentz” but just that horizontal display of words tipping off the viewer of an upcoming news item or story to be debated creates a significant emotional pull to the viewer to stay tuned and be ready.
This simple yet profound ploy of production for PTI has been adopted by a multitude of other styles of shows ranging from sports to political news.
Television Shows As Podcasts
People are on the go anymore in this day and age. We are constantly on the move. Does appointment television even exist anymore where folks are compelled to tune into a show at a set time each week or weekday?
I know I personally do not have any shows that I consume directly as they air through their originally scheduled time. The DVR and on-demand cable access now let us take in shows on our own schedule, at our own convenience, exactly when we prefer.
The new media of podcasting has only further served to allow television shows to be more conveniently consumed by fans who are especially on the go and unable to sit in front of a television for a scheduled period of time.
Traditional television shows, especially topical sports talk shows like PTI, can be reformatted and repackaged to become an easily and instantly accessible audio podcast available on all the major podcasting outlets.
A show like PTI is the perfect fit for television to be converted into a podcast. The show is debate driven, with Kornheiser and Wilbon commencing quickly with an energized discourse at the onset of each show. When guests visit to be interviewed those segments only further lend to a credible audio-only experience.
While the iconic rundown board highlighting the upcoming topics is clearly missing in a reformatted podcast format of PTI, the passionate and knowledgeable engagement between Kornheiser and Wilbon shines through for a proper PTI podcast experience.
Wilbon Throwing Shade At Philly
While I am clearly a frequent viewer of PTI and respect the passion, knowledge, and execution of the broadcast that Kornheiser and Wilbon bring to the show each and every day, I do have a minor bone to pick specifically with Michael Wilbon.
For some reason, Wilbon seems to have it in for Philadelphia sports fans. Myself being born and raised in the suburbs of Philly and having attended countless Philadelphia professional sporting events, including a 20+ year run as an Eagles season ticket holder, I can not help but find the critiques lacking in a true understanding of the city and frankly stemming from laziness.
The latter comment regarding laziness is not shot at Wilbon’s work ethic. The guy is clearly driven and has worked incredibly hard to reach the heights of sport’s media that he has.
His potshots and jabs at Philly are lazy because he is succumbing to tired and trite narratives that have swirled unfairly around the Philly faithful for decades.
Criticisms like we run our best players and coaches out of town, that we are unsophisticated fans, and we throw snowballs at Santa Clause.
The Santa Clause snowball incident is the most overblown and beaten to death story that does not seem to ever go away. It happened in the 1960s for crying out loud. At the root of the behavior was a badly damaged psyche for an Eagles fan base that suffered through a miserable season.
It is just a lazy trope for the national media to drag out anytime it seems fitting to continue to paint the Philly sports fan into a caricature of a mindless heathen.
While I have not heard Wilbon specifically trot out the decades-old Santa Clause indecent in his critiques of Philly I know those stereotypical tales are embedded somewhere in his being coloring his perception of one of the smartest and most nuanced fan bases in all the world.
“The Phillies aren’t even any good year after year, he’s going to get booed within three months. How could he be happy going to Philadelphia?”
Philly was flat out giddy and childlike in our adoration and welcoming of Bryce Harper. We also displayed significant poise and patience when he struggled mightily through some early season slumps and overall have supported this Phillies team which ultimately disappointed on the field.
What Wilbon and other national pundits do not understand is that Philly sports fans love heart and hustle over talent and flash. It is why a free safety named Brian Dawkins outshined the starting quarterback Donovan McNabb for the entire Andy Reid era of Philadelphia Eagles football.
Dawkins wore his emotions on his sleeve and played the game with a ferocious and unbridled passion that may never be matched again on a Philadelphia football field.
It is why a backup linebacker who excelled on special teams named Ike Reese became such a fan favorite as well. Reese even returned back to Philly and made a post-football career and home for himself here after having a stint with the Atlanta Falcons.
Eagles fans loved the player that Reese worked himself into becoming on the field and knew just how important a special team’s ace was to being a perennial playoff team during the Andy Reid run.
We showed incredible patience and gave our supportive best for years to Pat Burrell, a first overall draft pick for the Phillies, who struggled mightily at times lunging across the plate at off-speed pitches, especially the season following a major multi-year contract when he batted a career-low .209.
We hung in there with Burrell and he ultimately delivered by developing into a power-hitting left fielder who was a key cog for our 2008 World Series championship.
Bryce Harper is a gamer and throws the entirety of his being into hustling on the field. Philly fans recognize this and will embrace and cherish that kind of emotion far beyond his God-given talents. Harper will have his slumps but his passion for the game will carry this fanbase with him for the long haul here in Philly.
Back in 2017, Wilbon was commenting on Cleveland sports fans and used that moment as an unusual segue to take a shot at Philly sports fans:
“Because the people don’t act like jerks. Because it’s not Philly and they don’t think it’s their birthright to win, and they don’t boo people when they get hurt. They don’t behave like that.”
This might be the silliest critique that Wilbon could voice in regards to Philly sports fans. We have suffered under the enormous weight of near wins and gut crushing losses our entire history, especially when it comes to our beloved Philadelphia Eagles.
We have also been emotionally traumatized by haphazard and careless owners in our past who allowed the likes of Reggie White to walk in free agency and traded away our heroes like Charles Barkley and Moses Malone for bags of peanuts in return.
I personally sat in Vet stadium when the Eagles loss to the Jon Gruden led Bucs back in 2002 during the NFC Championship game when the entire script had seemed written and locked in for a Super Bowl win.
That was just 1 of 4 NFC Championship game losses we suffered during that era in addition to losing our only Super Bowl appearance under Andy Reid’s helm. Talk about a fragile sports town psyche.
I also sat as a young kid in my parent’s basement during the fog bowl and bemoaned in misery as a cloud of fog enveloped our television while the Buddy Ryan led Eagles lost a soul-crushing playoff game on the road to the Bears.
Angst and distress should never be mistaken for entitlement. We take up residency in the NFC East amongst every other team in our division with multiple Super Bowl wins.
We finally broke through and got ours in 2017 thanks to a miracle run from Nick Foles and I do believe we are a more grateful, reflective, and zen-like fan base as a result.
Philadelphia sports fans have their black sheep and unfortunate black eyes from regretful moments in our past, like a flare gun firing off from the seats during a Monday Night Football game, but we have the DNA of our professional franchises encoded deep in our beings.
We stay immersed in sports talk 24-7, 365 a year, and can discuss and dissect the nuance of pro sports right alongside any media pundit or prognosticator.
The stereotypes of Philly sports fans are tired and the rehashing or those caricatures by national media figures is just plain lazy.
Local Sports Talk Versus National Platforms
I typically prefer to consume sports talk and sports debate content on a local basis. For me, growing up and living in the suburbs of Philadelphia my whole life, I was blessed with having WIP in my life, which is one of the preeminent sports talk radio stations.
They are Philly-centric sports talk and cater to the four main professional sports in the area with the Eagles, Sixers, Phillies, and Flyers.
I do not tend to gravitate toward national sports platforms and I have a suspicion that most fans prefer to have their sports talk be geared towards their hometown teams as well.
It is a rare platform that can create content covering all the major professional sports across all the teams in their respective leagues and keep it compelling for listeners across the county.
When I was growing up The Sports Reporters on ESPN was an early version sports talk television show that featured a panel of local beat writers and columnists from a variety of locales who debated national topics.
The manner and delivery of debate were rather tame and dry on The Sports Reporters compared to the personas and shows that are out there today but it is my first memory of having a nationally based sports program continually draw in my attention.
In today’s age, Bill Simmons seems to straddle the line beautifully between entertainment and hardcore sports analysis on his commercially acclaimed podcast The Bill Simmons Show. Pop culture references, organic humor, and big-time analysis of on the field action all lend themselves to creating a sports podcast juggernaut for Simmons.
PTI podcast has all the proper ingredients for a national sports platform to override any local tendencies or local preferences for sports talk consumers. First and foremost, you have to know your stuff and bring the goods when it comes to the actual breakdown of play and performance across the leagues.
Whether you want to debate specific points or held beliefs by the duo, Kornheiser and Wilbon have a vast knowledge of all the professional leagues.
I myself count on shows like PTI to maintain a cursory awareness of other teams around all of the professional leagues that may not get a significant amount of attention within the seasons of my local teams like the Eagles or Phillies. PTI podcast is a great outlet to stay plugged in.
Secondly, deep in the weeds analysis can only take you so far if it is not delivered in a style and format that is as entertaining as it is informing. Between the countdown clocks and rotating segment bits, PTI keeps throwing a constant churn of variety and energy at its audience.
Beyond the production elements, though, the show is anchored in the passion and knowledge that emanates from Kornheiser and Wilbon.
A specific topic within their show on its face might not be that interesting to me but the vigor and spirit in which Kornheiser and Wilbon engage these stories can overcome any deficit of intrigue for me.
The guys could be tossed a topic on global figure skating and the banter they could summon together would make you feel like it was a pressing matter that deserves your attention. No offense intended towards the global figure skating community.
The emotions they display do not just resonate on one tone either and whatever feelings that get expressed by the pair always feels organic and genuine. Certain shows on ESPN feel like they cater to hosts that are blowhards and egomaniacs just continually ranting at a certain sustained pitch and they never throttle out of that mode. It gets tiring, feels obnoxious, and comes off purely as schtick.
While there are moments within PTI were some ego from the hosts may creep in, especially for Wilbon, they allow for a full range of emotions to be displayed and honor the actual stories within each moment with authentic reactions.
When a moment calls for anger we get it. When the hosts are clearly disappointed or jaw dropped over an athlete's behavior or decisions we feel that too. When a moment lends itself for some lightheartedness or self-deprecating humor, the guys are spot on with their subtle inflections of comedy.
Subscribe To PTI Podcast
While I aired some minor grievances with Wilbon and his penchant for picking on Philly sports fans, I clearly enjoy the work he and Kornheiser put out on a daily basis on PTI.
The television show is the perfect style and format to translate beautifully into an on the go podcast show. Any and all sports junkies out there should have PTI podcast dialed up in their podcast feeds.
Just pay no mind to any slights or jabs taken at my fellow Philly sports brethren by Wilbon. We are the city of brotherly love and that nickname was bestowed upon our grand city in earnest.