It’s public knowledge that in Tony Kornheiser’s first season on Monday Night Football, he never got along with analyst Joe Theismann. In fact, Theisman openly detested Kornheiser. ESPN got rid of Theismann after that tumultuous year and brought in Ron Jaworski, whom Kornheiser immediately clicked with. But according to three sources, Kornheiser and MNF’s play-by-play announcer, Mike Tirico had their share of issues.
“Tirico treats the broadcast like a cathedral, and Tony was there to be the jester,” a source told The Big Lead. “Both are smart, but view sports differently. Mike would actually put an arm across Tony to make sure his calls wouldn’t get interrupted or to get him to hush.”
Tirico, through an ESPN spokesperson, said, “Tony and I traded voicemails over the weekend and we had a lengthy conversation on Sunday which was more than positive. We talked about staying in touch and meeting up when I come through Washington. My quote in the release, those are my words. That’s how I feel about Tony and the time we spent on MNF. There are no issues on my end.”
Our sources say that Kornheiser’s travel fears remain the primary reason he left the job, and Tirico had nothing to do with the departure. Still, listening to Kornheiser speak on this Washington Post video, it’s clear he did not enjoy his time in the booth – “the moments outside the booth were the most fun” – and one wonders if perhaps the fricition with Tirico made Kornheiser’s decision to bow out an easier one. In said video, he references ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy going off on non-game tangents during NBA telecasts, and not getting criticized.
“ESPN had to send the highest level execs – [John] Skipper and [John] Walsh- to games just to make sure all was OK weekly,” a source said. “They were barely cordial but only because they had to be. They were both professional about it. Tony just never felt liked by Tirico. He was always saying Tirico hated him.”
A call to Kornheiser’s Washington Post line Monday went unreturned.
Regarding the watchful eye of Skipper and Walsh, an ESPN publicist said: “With MNF being the be-all-end-all, Skipper and Walsh have made frequent trips for years.”