As you might have noticed, The Post has done many things this week to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Washington’s last Super Bowl appearance, headlined by this massive oral history, spearheaded by Rick Maese. That project included an interview with Tony Kornheiser about his famous Bandwagon columns, but because we’re greedy, we wanted more.
And so I was on a conference call where we agreed that it would be awesome if Kornheiser did a chat with readers, taking questions about that season and about the Bandwagon. An editor called Tony to ask about such a chat, offering to have someone read the questions over the phone to Tony, and to have him dictate his responses.
As you probably guessed, he declined. Then he talked about it on his ESPN 980 radio show.
“People who know me well know exactly what I would say: No,” Kornheiser began. “Nah, I’m not gonna do it. Why aren’t you gonna do it? Raju Narisetti fired me. I walked into his office at 8 o’clock in the morning; by 8:04 he had fired me. And until Raju Narisetti either dies or leaves, I’m not gonna do it.
“Then [the editor] said ‘Well, he’s actually leaving.’ I didn’t know that. Not good enough. I came up with a SECOND contingency when I found out he was leaving. He can’t leave fast enough, he can’t leave in enough pain for me, either. I said I want somebody from The Post to call me and say the following things to me: We’re really sorry that we fired you, we’d love for you to come back, we’d love for you to help us in whatever way you can. If you don’t want to write we understand. If you’d like to do some chats, if you’d like to do what you did with Cindy Boren and Michael Wilbon, we would love to have you do that.
“And then I agreed to say ‘Thank you, no, it’s ok.’ And then I’ll do the chat. But I want to be hired. I don’t have to be hired at the same amount of money that they used to pay me, but I’d like to be hired at more than Raju Narisetti offered me to stay on, which is in the four figures for the year. Which didn’t seem like a lot to me. Now you completely understand my position.”
So that’s why there was no Kornheiser chat about the Bandwagon this week. Our apologies. But you see that some strong feelings were involved here. Important stuff.
Anyhow, Kornheiser used this as occasion to talk at length about his Bandwagon columns on air. And since I’m in this business, might as well transcribe what he said. Imagine that the would-be chat had involved a single question — “Hey Tony, tell us about the Bandwagon columns” — producing a single, length answer. And then here you go. We won’t let your stubbornness defeat us, good sir.
Q: HEY TONY, TELL US ABOUT THE BANDWAGON COLUMNS?
KORNHEISER: “The Bandwagon was the most fun I ever had as a writer. Week after week after week I wrote about it in the Tuesday column. First week of the season they beat the Detroit Lions, 45-0. And people said well Barry Sanders didn’t play. And I wrote, ‘Oh, he was gonna get seven touchdowns by himself? Really? This team is so good, this team will probably win the Super Bowl.’
“The next week they beat somebody else. They win the game, and then I write the Redskins are DEFINITELY gonna win. By the third week, or the fourth week, I came up with the phrase Bandwagon, and by the fifth week I was soliciting readers to say what will you bring on the ride to Minneapolis on the Bandwagon.
“By the sixth week or so we had our own cartoonist, Richard Thomson, doing a cartoon all the time. And I was going to the same players every single game, the guys who I thought could talk, Mark Adickes and Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby and I went to Rypien a little bit and Darrell Green a little bit, but mostly you go to offensive linemen. They’re the smartest guys on every team, the offensive linemen.
“By the eighth week or so, Don Graham agreed on bumper stickers. A bumper sticker, I have 100 of them in my house, but I have one on the door to my basement, on the inside part there is a Skins Bandwagon bumper sticker. It says Skins Bandwagon, because there were political sensitivities there. You didn’t want to say Redskins. And I understood that. So it says Skins Bandwagon, it’s in burgundy and gold, and in the bottom right it says The Washington Post.
“We had t-shirts made that we gave out with the great sort of drawings of Richard Thompson on the t shirts. We had handkerchiefs made — get on the bandwagon — whatever those things were. I have a t-shirt somewhere that’s mildewed and disgusting, and I have some of these handkerchiefs somewhere.
“It’s the most fun I ever had. And then we actually had to get on a Bandwagon, get on an RV that was decorated, and we got on, McManus and Norman Chad and I. We got on. We referred to Chad — as he liked to refer to himself at that time — as Man About Town Chip Muldoon. And McManus was drunk as a rat when she got on the Bandwagon. We actually had to leave at 6 in the morning from the Washington Post parking lot.
“Eventually, after a couple of nights on the road that produced columns — and let me say, don’t think that I wasn’t egomaniacal about this, because I was. I saw this as something that would help me AND make people happy, and both things turned out to be true.
“When the Bandwagon itself arrived in Minneapolis, all the local news crews covered us. They covered us. And it was great fun. It was just such great fun. I loved it loved it loved it. Loved every minute of it....I loved doing it, and the players liked it. Players really liked it. The only guy who stood at arms length of course was Gibbs, but that was just Gibbs, that’s the way he was.”