UPDATE: Audio of Kornheiser’s rant has now been posted on Youtube:
Lance Armstrong unleashed a stunning stream of vitriol to his 2,457,806 Twitter.com followers today directed at ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption host Tony Kornheiser in reference to comments the ESPN personality recently made on his daily ESPN radio show in D.C.:
So what did Kornheiser say to make Armstrong so upset? The cyclist referenced the ESPN host’s March 11, 2009, show on ESPN 980 in DC. A show in which Kornheiser said this about cyclists:
They don’t share the road. They dominate the road. They dare you to run them down. Then when you do, they get angry. What is that about? So you tap them. I’m not saying you kill them. I’m saying you tap them. Tap them once. If you’re not rubbing, you’re not racing right? So you pop them a little bit and see what happens.
Those comments are excerpted. For more context, go here, via Dan Steinberg at the WASHINGTON POST. ESPN 980, which archives the complete audio of each Kornheiser local DC show, has not surprisingly deleted the audio of the March 11 show completely. I haven’t confirmed yet if ESPN Bristol asked for the deletion.
Kornheiser only recently returned to co-Hosting duties on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption after being suspended for two weeks for making comments about ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm’s wardrobe.
While what Kornheiser said about cyclists was foolish, especially in light of what just happened here in Los Angeles, he says wildly hyperbolic things about people and current events almost every single day on his ESPN 980 DC radio show. I came to realize that when reporting on the Storm situation. I listened back to several of his shows and found that Kornheiser never shies away from an extreme expression on local radio when given an opportunity. (Kornheiser’s generally a completely different guy than the more measured and affable person seen daily on ESPN’s PTI.)
Radio execs will tell you that Kornheiser’s DC schtick makes for great radio, and they’re probably right. But with Kornheiser hosting sports media’s biggest weekday stage (ESPN-TV’s PTI) and the aftermath of his Storm comment, it is now clear that if Kornheiser doesn’t start softening his edge on his DC radio show he may significantly injure his employment status at ESPN.
An indication Kornheiser understands that is the apology that Armstrong said he received from the ESPN host this afternoon:
If Kornheiser didn’t have his ESPN-TV PTI gig, worth millions per annum, do you think he’d apologize to Armstrong? Does “very sorry” sound like Kornheiser for something like that? It doesn’t if you’ve listened to a lot of his local DC radio personality.
Without PTI, I think Kornheiser’d revel in Armstrong’s negative reaction and try to take advantage of the national attention for his local DC radio show. We actually saw a little of that today from ESPN 980’s Twitter.com account - which failed to amuse Armstrong:
Though if Kornheiser was never on ESPN’s PTI, Armstrong probably wouldn’t have found out (or cared) about what he said. In fact, without his ESPN profile, Armstrong probably wouldn’t know who Kornheiser is. (Unless he was from DC or lived in the area.)
Kornheiser is certainly entitled to entertain his DC listeners as he sees fit. But make no mistake, that gig is a sidelight now for him and if he had to pick between hosting his ESPN 980 show and being on ESPN television, he’d drop daily DC radio. That’s the reality of the conglomo-driven sports media world we live in today. (Nobody ever said it was fair.)
As I can’t imagine ESPN 980 execs asked Kornheiser to apologize to Armstrong, I’ve got a message into ESPN Bristol asking if it requested Kornheiser extend the gesture to the cyclist. Wouldn’t surprise me if Bristol did, but perhaps Kornheiser did it himself knowing that he might be called on the carpet again.