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Voice of the 'Fan

ESPN needs to tweak some programs

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I'm a big fan of "Around the Horn", and I try to watch it as soon as I get home from work. Problem is, the show has gotten a little too formulaic and predictable of late.

Series host Tony Reali has over the last several months gone out of his way to favor regular panelist Woody Paige. The Denver Post columnist became a fan favorite while appearing on ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" and its spin-off, "1st & Ten", but the veteran sportswriter also has a tendency to be annoying and rambling, overstating his case to the point of getting rewarded with extra points. Thankfully, there are those days where Woody's village idiot act gets him eliminated first, but you wonder if there isn't anything else that might explain Reali's mindless favoritism. Original host Max Kellerman, the very definition of overbearing, wasn't this bad, was he?

Over on "Pardon the Interruption", where Reali serves as "Stat Boy" to hosts Michael Wilbon & Tony Kornheiser, occasional fill-in Dan LeBatard is treated like the goofy cousin from way out of town that nobody likes at family reunions. Kornheiser can be a bit ham-handed at times himself, but PTI isn't quite as interesting as it used to be.

Both series have been around for a few years, solving the network's problem of building a late-afternoon programming bridge to SportsCenter. However, all good things must come to an end. ATH & PTI have long worn out their welcomes, I hate to say it, especially given the partisan, pseudo-subjective scoring of ATH. It's time to put these two to bed.

ESPN expanded their award winning "Outside the Lines" to a daily format a few years back, keeping the show relevant & fresh. The best way to put that relevancy back in "Horn" and/or "Pardon" is to do one of two things:

1. In "Horn"'s case, it's time to add more new faces to the rotation. That was tried last year, but they only got, at the very least, two new panelists who now aren't getting enough face time. PTI is built around Wilbon & Kornheiser, who've both made note of a mild disdain for "Horn" regular Jay Mariotti, who's filled in on PTI a few times. However, they've never crossed over onto "Horn". With both shows on same-day tape in Washington, how could they not?

2. They can, if "Horn" & "Pardon" are fused together and rebranded as a weekday edition of another Sunday series, "Sports Reporters". Kornheiser & Wilbon both have been past regulars there, so PTI can be considered a spin-off. However, it's time to end the pretense of a scoring system on "Horn", ditch Reali, who has all the charisma of a toothpick and is better off playing Reggie in a summer stock production based on the Archie comics, and bring some of the "Sports Reporters" regulars to weekdays, like Mitch Albom & Mike Lupica. At the same time, it freshens "Reporters" up, and opens the possibility of it being 1 hour 6 days a week (Sunday-Friday). I'd make Kornheiser or Wilbon the lead anchor on the weekday edition.

Like, you know "Horn" has jumped the shark if Paige can get away with using props for comic effect as he has in recent months. We don't need schtick like that. Of course, if they do ditch Reali, he'll just resurface doing World Series of Poker with Norman "Hanging" Chad.

What do the rest of you think?
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