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The last half-hour of the ESPN network's afternoon block of "journalists yell about sports" shows (along with Numbers Never Lie, Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable, Sports Nation, and Around the Horn. The show debuted in October 2001 and is still ongoing. Hosted by former Washington Post sportswriter Tony Kornheiser and ESPN.com sportswriter Michael Wilbon (also formerly of the Post), and featuring ATH host Tony Reali as "Stat Boy", the show has the duo discuss a variety of daily sports topics, which are generally timed to keep the show moving.
The show follows a set format of segments.
- The first segment, Headlines, is dedicated to current sports headlines.
- The second is either another Headlines segment or an interview with an athlete, coach, or sportscaster. The interview is dubbed "Five Good Minutes", although the actual time can vary.
- During the NFL season, former player and current commentator Ron "Jaws" Jaworski is a staple interview on Monday episodes.
- The third segment is a game-themed period which can go in any number of directions. There are many of these, but the most frequently used are:
- Mail Time - four questions sent in by "e-mailers" (see Fourth Wall Mail Slot below) are discussed.
- Role Play - Korneheiser and Wilbon take turns answering questions as if they were sports figures, holding up faces on signposts.
- Over/Under - Reali gives a possible stat for an upcoming event, and Kornheiser and Wilbon guess that the actual result will be over or under the predicted stat.
- Odds Makers - Reali gives a "What are the chances [something sports-related]?", and Kornheiser and Wilbon give the odds of it happening.
- Toss-Up - The producer gives a "what's more likely to happen?" question with two answers, and Kornheiser and Wilbon make their picks.
- Word Up - Reali will ask Kornheiser and Wilbon to come up with a single word that describes a recent sports-related event.
- Happy Time - Kornheiser gives a Happy Birthday to a sports figure or celebrity, a Happy Anniversary to something memorable, and a Happy Trails to something that's coming to an end. These can also be for bad things; major screw-ups are generally announced as "Not-so-Happy Anniversary" and deaths are announced as "A melancholy Happy Trails to..."
- Errors - Reali corrects anything that was goofed, and things that happened but weren't talked about.
- The Big Finish - A 5- to 7-question rapid-fire discussion crammed into the last half-minute to minute of the show.
- Often, one additional discussion point and the Big Finish will be moved to the Sports Center immediately after PTI.
- Ascended Extra:
- Reali got his start on this show before replacing Max Kellerman as host of Around the Horn.
- Frequent guest co-host Dan LeBatard got his own show, Dan LeBatard Is Highly Questionable, in Summer 2011.
- Bald of Awesome: Kornheiser tends to promote the greatness of being bald during the shows, and likes to introduce bald guests as "a fellow member of the Bald Brotherhood." Wilbon shaves his head, but doesn't revel in that as much as Kornheiser does. The ironic thing is that Kornheiser isn't completely bald; he has a wisp of a comb-over that Wilbon occasionally needles him about.
- This was used as a gag in the promos before the show premiered:
Tony: We're fat, we're bald... we're old.
- Berserk Button: Anybody but Wilbon criticizing Kornheiser will make him mad.
- Butt Monkey: Dan LeBatard (see Replacement Scrappy on the YMMV page for more details).
Dan: Pardon the interruption, but I'm Dan LeBatard. Tony, an IBM computer was one of the three contestants on Jeopardy last night. What could be more annoying than a computer on a TV show?
- Catch Phrase: The show always opens with Wilbon (or whoever's subbing for him) saying "Pardon the interruption, but I'm [name]". The Big Finish closes with:
*buzzer as the clock runs out*
- Couch Gag: The show will always open with a bit of back and forth as noted at the top of the page.
- Credits Gag: In Canada, ESPN-owned sports network TSN also airs the show, but only its first half hour, as the last portion of PTI is delayed to (or more recently, segues into) the Sports Center that follows the show. After a snarky comment from Reali about Canadians, Kornheiser now closes the portion that kicks off SportsCenter in the U.S. (which would be the cut-off point for Canadian viewers) by waving a tiny Canadian flag and saying "Good night, Canada!"
- Though, now averted, as TSN does air it now.
- Crossover: Several panelists from Around the Horn have hosted the show.
- After J.A. Adande won what Reali called "the worst Odds Makers ever," Reali said "Let's go to the lounge!" Adande then said he wanted this win to be added to his ATH win count.
- A Sports Nation Halloween episode involved Sports Nations set being dressed up to look like the PTI set. Kornheiser appeared on the show to demand that the Sports Nations hosts "stop stealing [their] stuff!"
- Deadpan Snarker: Reali does this a lot during Odds Makers.
- Double Entendre: The show usually opens with Wilbon mentioning an interesting news story (usually non-sports related) and asks Kornheiser a relative question about it tying into his personal life ("Have YOU ever..."), usually resulting in Kornheiser giving an easy double entendre answer.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: The "Penguin Dance" that Kornheiser breaks into on occasion, much to Wilbon's annoyance.
- Fan Nickname: "Heads on Sticks" for "Role Play."
- Follow the Leader: You see those other shows up in the intro? All of them exist because of the success of PTI. The format has also been used in segments of local and regional sports shows around the U.S.
- Fourth Wall Mail Slot: Used in the "Mail Time" segment; the letters originally came from the viewers, but are now made by the producers.
- Full Name Ultimatum: Whenever Reali appears for the "Odds Maker" segment, he's introduced as "Anthony Joseph [topical nickname] Reali." Sometimes, the topical nickname is long enough to make it an Overly Long Name gag as well.
- Averted with Kornheiser and the title: He has never referred to the title in full in the show's history, stemming from the fact he dislikes it.
- Fun with Acronyms: Of a different sort. It's highlighted in the title.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Kornheiser and Wilbon's chemistry and years of running the show have proved them one of ESPN's few examples of this trope. It's hard to think of one of them without the other.
- Listening to Kornheiser's radio show, it sometimes seems likely that Wilbon is Kornheiser's only friend.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Kornheiser has been suspended from PTI numerous times for making inappropriate comments on his radio show, usually about his other ESPN colleagues.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: The show's theme tune is a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of Pavement's "Cut Your Hair".
- Large Ham: Both hosts, as well as most of the guest hosts, LeBatard in particular.
- Likes Older Women: One of the show's running gags is Kornheiser's outspoken attraction to older women (he's in his 60s).
- Loophole Abuse: Kornheiser will often duck the one-word rule for "Word Up" by using multiple words and claiming that they're connected by hyphens, therefore, they only count as one word.
- One Steve Limit: Played with Tony Kornheiser and Tony Reali; Reali is usually referred to by his last name instead.
- Orphaned Punchline: A running gag used for a while in 2010. When the show comes back from its final commercial break for the "Happy Time" segment, it comes back to Kornheiser in the midst of an odd or innuendous story to Wilbon, "unaware" that they're live until Reali yells from off-camera that they're on.
Kornheiser: So I've only dated one Canadian; Margot Kidder. Let me tell ya, I Superman'd -- oh, we're on, how bout that?
- Rimshot: All the games that involve Reali have one when he's introduced.
- Running Gag: So many that the show once had a Wikipedia page on them.
- LeBatard has his own "running joke" that he would exclaim "BAM!" at the start of each episode. When Kornheiser was suspended (again) for saying something stupid on his radio show, the audience was treated to a week of variations on:
Wilbon: Pardon the Interuption, I'm Michael Wilbon, and when I made my lunch today, I ate a sandwich with some
- Salt and Pepper: Kornheiser is white and Wilbon black, but both subvert the trope by being rather knowledgeable (or as the show's detractors believe, not so much) about most of the topics they discuss.
- Spin-Off: Kornheiser and Wilbon got their TV start on Redskins Report, a Washington, D.C. show hosted by legendary sportscaster George Michael. Later Dick Schaap tapped them for ESPN's Sunday morning show Sports Reporters before getting their own show.
- Stealth Pun: Pardon them interrupting their sponsors, as ESPN does a quick cut back to their studio after the first commercial of every break.
- Title Drop: Twice, to open and close the show. The show opens with Wilbon dropping the full title (see the page quote). When the show closes after the Big Finish, Kornheiser holds a PTI logo sign over his face; after a Fade to Black, the show's logo is shown while an offscreen voice whispers "PTI."
- Too Soon: Actually a third-segment game, where Reali would bring up an early prediction of a transpiring sports story, and then asks the hosts in various voices: "Too Soon?" This hasn't been used in a long time and seems ready to join Fair Or Foul? on the way to being discontinued for good.
- Uranus Is Showing: Kornheiser loves making these jokes during the show's opening. Like the Penguin Dance, this does not amuse Wilbon in the least.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Kornheiser and Wilbon love to argue both on and off screen. The main difference, according to Kornheiser, is that off air, there's a lot more profanity involved.
"We're out of time, we'll try to do better the next time, I'm Tony Kornheiser."