Pro Sports Fanatic
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Tony Reali plays a major role on two of ESPN's top shows. As "Stat Boy," he keeps The Washington Post's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon honest on "Pardon the Interruption." And as the host of "Around the Horn," he moderates a rotating horde of contentious sports writers as they argue over everything from Barry Bonds to dodgy draft picks.
Reali, 28, was originally hired to be a researcher on "PTI." He says he had no aspirations to appear on-air and had been told his New Jersey accent made him better suited to work off-camera. In fact, he only got the "Around the Horn" gig when contract talks with his predecessor hit a snag.
"The back story to my hiring was I was the only one to do the job in an hour's notice within, I don't know, 800 miles," Reali says.
Within a week, he had to buy new suits, after he wore all of his on-air. That was in February 2004, and he's been the show's host ever since.
Reali, a native New Yorker, discussed his adjustment to living in the District and working in sports in a town where the most important contests are political, not athletic.
What is it about sports that people love to argue about it?
It's something they can argue about at a bar, they can argue about it at work. That's the best thing about this job: I'd be doing the same thing even if I wasn't working here. If they didn't let me in the building, I'd sneak in and start yelling with the guys in the office as loud as I could. If you have the passion for it, there's always a talking point. It could be a game or something inside the game.
Were you always a big sports fan?
From the womb, I was a huge sports fan. . . . It's a little boy's dream to be an athlete; mine was to be a sports commentator. Maybe it's because I was small in stature, maybe it's because I wasn't particularly good at sports.
I had a little microphone I would talk into; I would watch games and do a mock play-by-play.
Did you have any favorite announcers growing up?
A guy who did the Yankees by the name of John Sterling.