A key behind-the-scenes figure for ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption is retiring. Tom Howard is stepping down as the show’s director, a job he’s had since the show’s launch in 2001.
“Tom has been the man who’s called the shots in the control room since Day 1, and now he’s retiring,” said Tony Kornheiser in a tribute to Howard during the “Happy Trails” segment at the end of Monday’s show.
“He’s younger than I am, so what the hell am I still doing here? For more than 20 years, Tom has taken all the pieces to our daily puzzle and made them look and sound great on the air. We are indebted for everything he’s done to make this show what it’s been, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t all go to hell without him.”
Tony Kornheiser & @RealMikeWilbon with a great tribute tonight on @PTI to the show's longtime director Tom Howard, who is retiring after 20 years.— bill hofheimer (@bhofheimer_espn) January 31, 2022
A great nugget: Howard also directed the DC talk & debate show "Equal Time" when Tony K made his first appearance on TV. pic.twitter.com/apJU1uVgBr
“Thanks for making Tony and me look good on TV for 20 years,” added Michael Wilbon, who needled Kornheiser for not attending the going-away party for Howard. (Very on-brand for Mr. Tony.)
As Kornheiser and ESPN senior communications director Bill Hofheimer mentioned, Howard’s work with the former Washington Post sports columnist goes beyond their time together on PTI. Howard was behind the camera when Kornheiser first appeared on television. The guess is that neither of them would have predicted that Mr. Tony’s TV career might go as long and become as successful as it has.
When PTI celebrated its 20-year anniversary on the air, Howard told Hofheimer in an ESPN Front Row interview what’s made the show so successful.
“Unlike so many talking head shows, the energy and banter between the two, especially when on set together, is like a sporting event,” said Howard. “You don’t know what’s going to happen because it’s unscripted for the most part. Learning the guys’ personalities, knowing what’s going to trigger a reaction, and catching it as it happens make cutting the show fun and fast-paced.”
As much as Kornheiser and Wilbon are associated with PTI, the show and ESPN have give due praise to those behind the scenes, including producers Erik Rydholm and Matt Kelleher. Acknowledging Howard’s role in the show’s success fits right in with the team sentiment that the production has promoted from the beginning.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling
“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”
In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.
During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.
“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.
ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.
NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.
Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.
One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.
Michael Irvin Removed From NFL Network Super Bowl Coverage
“I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds.”
A complaint from a female to NFL Network has caused the network to remove Michael Irvin from its Super Bowl coverage.
NFL Network did not comment on the nature of the complaint or the allegation of any impropriety by Irvin, simply stating Irvin would not be a participant in coverage of the event from Arizona.
“Michael Irvin will not be a part of NFL Network’s Super Bowl LVII week coverage,” said NFL Media Vice President of Communications Alex Riethmiller in a statement.
Irvin claimed the interaction happened during a brief moment Sunday after having dinner and drinks with former Cowboy defensive back Michael Brooks.
“This all happened in a 45-second conversation in the lobby,” Irvin told The Dallas Morning News. “When I got back after going out … I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds. We shook hands. Then, I left…That’s all I know.”
Irvin, 56, admitted he didn’t recall the conversation between him and the female but called the interaction “just a friendly conversation”. He defended himself by saying “There was definitely nothing physical”.
The report from The Dallas Morning News added that Glendale police officials do not know about any incident regarding Irvin.
A report from Front Office Sports claims ESPN executives are “poised to pull the plug” on Irvin’s scheduled appearance on First Take from Radio Row Friday.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer has been with NFL Network since 2009, and in August of last year signed an extension to remain with the cable channel.
Pro Bowl Lowest Rated Since 2006
While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues.
The NFL completely revamped its Pro Bowl format for the 2022 season, and the changes did not garner more viewers.
An average of 6.28 million viewers tuned into the event across ABC, ESPN, and DisneyXD Sunday for the first 7-on-7 event. That number is a decrease of 6% compared to last year and is the lowest-rated Pro Bowl since the 2006 event saw just 5.96 million viewers. That figure excludes the 2021 Pro Bowl, which was a “virtual” event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest-rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues, with the MLB All-Star Game seeing an average viewership of 7.51 million. The 6.28 million who watched the Pro Bowl is a virtual tie with last season’s NBA All-Star Game.
The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge — now produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions — did see a large increase in viewership compared to last year. More than 1 million viewers tuned into the Thursday night primetime event, which is the second-best figure on record. That audience is a 23% increase compared to last year’s event.