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Around the Horn (sometimes abbreviated ATH) is a daily, half-hour sports talk program on ESPN filmed in Washington, D.C.marker It airs at 5:00 pm ET, as part of a sports talk hour with Pardon the Interruption. It is a production of ESPN Original Entertainment and is currently hosted by Tony Reali.


Around the Horn premiered on November 4, 2002, hosted by Max Kellerman. It replaced the interview show Unscripted with Chris Connelly. On February 2, 2004, Tony Reali, known as "Stat Boy" on Pardon the Interruption, became the show's new host when Kellerman left ESPN due to a contract dispute. The show's launch team and daily production management was led by broadcast executive James Cohen. On July 10, 2007, the show celebrated its 1,000th episode in a show won by Jay Mariotti. Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption had a combined household rating of 788,000 homes in 2006. The 4th quarter was the most-watched quarter ever for both shows. ATH had increased ratings in 12 of the last 13 quarters through the end of 2006.

The set

The Around the Horn set is in the same Atlantic Video complex as the set for Pardon the Interruption. It features the host's desk with the point triggers and mute buttons, opposite of four screens of the panelists with their score under them and the mute sign above them. Behind the host's desk is a map of the contiguous United States of America with the cities the sportswriters on the show appear from. The map used to have newspapers the sports writers were affiliated with. They were Los Angeles Times, The Denver Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe.

Each panelist appears either within the offices of their respective newspaper, in front of a screen representing the city they're located in, or in another studio.


The current Around The Horn format consists of the following:
  • Introduction: A commercial-free transition to the opening moments of the show start with the host, Reali, introducing the panelists as "four of America's most (themed) sportswriters." For example, if the "theme word" is "indifferent", the four panelists would all do their impressions of an indifferent sportswriter. The show itself is then introduced with Reali mentioning three topics to be discussed, then exclaiming "Ten topics, one winner. Horn me!" The opening theme plays, and cuts to Reali for an introduction. The panelists are then individually introduced and given time for an opening statement. Most of the panelists use this time for jokes or criticism of the host or other panelists, which can lead to points or mutes. (One such example is when Woody Paige used his time by blowing a miniature plasticine horn, as a pun towards the show's name; this resulted in Paige being muted by Reali.)
  • The First Word: Two current sports headlines are discussed. The panelists give detailed arguments and can also give rebuttals to other panelists.
  • Buy or Sell: A rapid-fire segment in which the panelists are asked to "buy" or "sell" (be for or against) three different concepts, also drawn from current sports headlines. In the first few months of this format, four topics were discussed, with each having a shorter time limit to fit between the first and second commercial breaks.
  • 1st Cut: The contestant with the lowest point total is eliminated. In the case of ties, Reali often breaks them by miscellaneous things, like whose hair is better combed. If the awarding of a point causes a tie for the two lowest panelists, Reali sometimes gives the same panelist a second point to break it.
  • Out of Bounds: This round is dedicated to talking about one story which is indirectly sports-related. Serious topics are usually discussed in this round, and few to no points are awarded.
  • 2nd Cut: The next contestant with the lowest point total is removed, leaving just two. The camera then reveals the final two contestants and Reali typically says something to the effect of, "Two men enter, one man wins!" right before the cut to commercial.
  • Showdown: Mentioned above, the two remaining columnists take sides on any sports or cultural stories remaining. There are two or three questions, depending on the amount of time left. Usually, the western most panelist goes first for the first topic, with the other speaking for the second half. The panelists then alternate going first for the remaining topics. Each topic is timed between 20 and 40 seconds each depending on time remaining. Reali usually gives a panelist one point per topic, although he occasionally gives more than one point or deducts points depending on the strength or weakness of the argument.
  • Facetime: The winner of the showdown and therefore winner of that particular episode gets around 30 seconds (more or less depending on time left in show frame) to talk about anything he/she wishes to discuss. Most of the time these are sports related, but often their own personal life or an issue in pop culture is discussed. Lounge music is played in the background as the winner talks.
  • Goodbye: Reali says how long it will be until the next episode, for example, "we're on a 23-and-a-half hour break." On Fridays, he will sign off by saying "a 71-and-a-half-hour break." If there is an extended period until the show comes back on, Reali may simply say, "You do the math!"
  • Paper Toss: Signature sign-off of the show, with Reali crumpling his notes and throwing them towards the camera. As he does this, the panelists will often continue to chatter in the background as the show ends.

Previous format

Before the show was retooled in early 2003, the format was similar, wherein the first two rounds were pretty much the same but with different titles. There was a bigger difference after that. The show ran like so:
  • The Opening Round: The two biggest headlines of the day.
  • The Lightning Round: A quick-moving round with four topics where players had to make their points quickly or risk getting muted by Max Kellerman, the former host. On November 2, 2009, the Lightning Round was brought back by Reali for the episode and was used as the third segment in place of "Out of Bounds". It has since become a regular segment once again, occasionally taking the place of "Out of Bounds" and featuring three topics.
  • The Bonus Round: One final topic, with the panelists trying to earn some last-second points, followed by a sports trivia question for each panelist, worth five points
  • The Medal Round: The panelists earned facetime equal to their scores converted to seconds, in reverse order of their placing. The winner received a gold medal, second place received silver, third place got bronze, and the fourth place finisher was given a foil ball. More often than not, due to time restrictions, the panelists were given less time than they earned, or at least one panelist would not be given any time at all. During this round, panelists could appeal to the Disembodied Voice for more points.

Despite the change in format, Reali still occasionally announces "ten topics, four sportswriters" at the beginning of the show - even though the show usually has only nine.


The show is unique as it "scores the argument" - points are awarded to or taken from panelists at the discretion of the host depending on the strength or weakness of their arguments. The rewarding - and deduction - of points has changed throughout the series. Originally, being muted cost a panelist five points. Later, while Kellerman was still hosting the show, the scoring was at its most strict: "good" answers were awarded two points, "great" answers were given three, and a mute subtracted three points from a panelist's score. Shortly before Kellerman left the show, the mute was reduced to its current -1. Around the time Reali took over the show, the host was allowed to give points at his own discretion, Reali may give a single point for a weak argument, or many points for a particularly strong case backed by statistical information. The host may also give multiple points for "inside information" that he deems correct. Points may also be taken away for self-promotion, such as bragging about a good column or a successful upset pick (According to Reali, "Self-promotion is the mating call of the mute button!") In addition, complaints about how many points that they or another panelist received, usually results in a deduction and/or mute. Reali mainly uses the mute button when a panelist interrupts another panelist, begins to ramble, or changes his or her previous opinion on a given topic.

Jay Mariotti currently holds the points record before the showdown with 56 on August 31, 2007. The record previously was 52 by Bill Plaschke in 2004. The record for most points in the first round was set by Woody Paige at 41 points on October 30, 2009.

Reali also makes bets occasionally with the panelists on sporting events, with the panelist gaining or losing a large amount of points based on the outcome. For example, in summer of 2007, Woody Paige made a bet with Reali that he could drink a gallon of water during the 30 minutes of the show. At the end, the tank was empty. On the next show, secret cameras revealed Paige dumping most of the water in a cooler. Rather than receiving the promised 100 points, Paige received several mutes. Paige also received 10 points from Reali on January 22, 2009, when on the previous episode's "Facetime" Paige cheered on the New Jersey Institute of Technology's basketball team to snap their 51 game losing streak, NJIT won, Paige received points and won again. Paige used the time to offer his "service" to any other failing team at any level.

Reali occasionally will deduct points of a panelist who had a strong opinion on a sports-related matter predicted earlier in time, which then turned out to be the staunch opposite of what truly happened when the topic showed itself on the show again.

There have been some topics, most during the Out of Bounds segment, which have not been scored due to their sensitive nature. Such examples include Bob Ryan's suspension for his comments towards Jason Kidd's wife, the Duke Lacrosse Casemarker, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén making a homosexual slur towards Jay Mariotti, Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident, Michael Vick's dog fighting and animal abusemarker, Rick Pitino's extortion scandal, and discussions of deaths. Other sensitive topics that do not award points are held at the beginning.

After Paige encouraged viewers to come up with ways to improve the scoring system, the June 19, 2008 episode was played with no scoring and no muting. This led to all four panelists reaching out of bounds and the showdown, with nobody being declared the winner.

On August 11, 2008, Michael Smith, senior writer for, returned to the show for the first time in nearly a year and went on to win the show with 25 points over Tim Cowlishaw, J. A. Adande and Woody Paige; before the show, Tony Reali said "who's that guy in Boston?" Smith has been in the rotating pool of panelists ever since.

On April Fool's Day, 2009, Woody Paige hosted the show, with Reali taking his place as a panelist. Paige took great delight in muting Reali, while constantly deducting points from Reali and rival Mariotti. He changed the rules so the highest point total was eliminated, rather than lowest, leading to a showdown between Reali and Mariotti. Mariotti won, but Paige quickly muted him and campaigned to be the new host, as Plaschke, Mariotti and Cowlishaw chanted, "Wood-y! Wood-y! Wood-y!"

On August 5, 2009, Showdown was between Jay Mariotti and Bill Plaschke which ended with the final topic about Lou Holtz possibly running for US Senate. Reali asked both of them who on the panel would make a good congressman. Mariotti who was in the lead at the time commented that eliminated panelist Kevin Blackistone would be a great congressman. Due to this, Reali gave the Facetime to Blackistone instead of Mariotti.

On September 8, 2009, Woody Paige defeated Jackie MacMullan to get his 300th career win on Around The Horn (out of 505 appearances.) During his 30-second Face Time, he awarded himself a self-made "bronzed" blackboard with 300 written on it, and having one of his production assistants throw confetti on him (some of which got in his mouth and he playfully choked on), and had the same assistant pie him in the face.

On October 20, 2009, Jay Mariotti became the second ATH panellist to get a 300th career win.

On November 20, 2009, Tim Cowlishaw was awarded a record 11 points in the Showdown despite losing the first argument.


Guest hosts


Regular panelists

Infrequent panelists

Former panelists

Guest panelists

Rapper Snoop Dogg appeared in early 2009 as a "guest" in the JA Adande lounge and contributed to an NBA-centered discussion, but left after the first segment after apparently being offended by a remark made by Paige.

Running gags

During the show's long run, it has developed certain comedic long-running gags, much like its sister show Pardon the Interruption, that longtime viewers will recognize and casual viewers may be unable to easily comprehend. The gags revolve around the personalities of Reali and the columnists, along with their interactions. The most recognizable gag is the chalkboard in the top-left hand corner of Woody Paige's square on which he writes witty phrases that are different for each segment of the show, usually puns, such as "I'm chalk-bored" Paige started using it while in New York, then brought it back to Denver a few shows after his return.

Another running gag involving Paige is his friendly rivalvy with Mariotti. The two have appeared in and won more shows than any other panelist, and have also faced each other in the Showdown the most times. Paige has often mocked Mariotti on his chalkboard, and also repeatedly muted him and deducted points when he guest-hosted the show.

Reali introduces every episode with "Four of America's most ___ sportswriters" inserting various adjectives sometimes but not always related to a sports story of the day. During Max Kellerman's tenure, Kellerman would begin the show by listing "These four things, I KNOW are true!"; Reali used this in his early time on the show, but soon adopted his own phrasing.

Reali also often introduces the Showdown, the final segment of the show, with the phrase, "Two men enter, one man..." usually ending with a pun based around a winner. Specifically, on January 8, 2009, Reali introduced the Showdown by saying, "Two men enter, one man wins a snuggie."

At the end of each episode, as the camera zooms out and some of the production staff come into view, Reali attempts to hit the camera with the rolled up ball of paper from that episode. Reali also ends most episodes with the tag-line "we're on a twenty-three and a half hour break".On one occasion, as a prank, Bill Plaschke was eliminated after the start of show on May 21, 2009 as Woody Paige took his place in Los Angeles.

During the early run of the show, Disembodied Voice would work in "Around the Horn" into his program breaks, such as "Will Shaquille O'Neal go, or hang around... the horn!" Recently, under Tony Reali, wouldn't use the traditional "around... the horn!" tradition that started with Max Kellerman, but would say phrases such as "horn me!" before a commercial break.


  1. "Around the Horn" (2002) - Memorable quotes
  3. A transcript of a live chat with Woody Paige

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