With 3,304 episodes in the books, now is as good a time as any to reflect on the longevity and steadiness of Around the Horn. And to answer the question of what the all-time panel would be to this point. It’d be a Mount Rushmore situation, with a perfect four-box display.
Six TBL staffers reasonably well-versed in the show’s history submitted their ballots with their top five panelist picks. Longevity, success, personality and wide-ranging je ne sais quoi were considered.
First-place votes were worth five points, second-place votes worth four and so on. Here are the results. First-place votes are in parentheses.
J.A. Adande 16 pts (2)
Woody Paige 16 pts
Jay Mariotti 14 pts (1)
Tim Cowlishaw 10 pts
Bob Ryan 8 pts (1)
Bill Plaschke 8 pts
T.J. Simers 5 pts (1)
Kevin Blackistone 5 pts
Bomani Jones 3 pts
Jackie MacMullan 2 pts
Jemele Hill 2 pts
Michael Holley 2 pts
Jean-Jacques Taylor 1 pt
As a thought experiment, close your eyes and picture an episode of ATH. Adande, Cowlishaw, Paige and Mariotti would be a predictable and popular image. So although the survey has a small sample size, its results feel like they could be replicated on a larger scale.
ESPN provided The Big Lead with up-to-date statistics on the show. Our consensus panel includes four of the top-five on the all-time wins list.
Paige has appeared on a record 2,440 episodes, 851 more than Cowlishaw, who is in second place. He’s won 545.5 times, a 22.4 percent clip.
The other three have a better win percentage.
- Cowlishaw 26.8 (426 out of 1,589)
- Adande 26.1 (307 out of 1,107)
- Mariotti 21.2 (329 out of 1,549)
By this metric, there are three journalists who have legitimate beef that they are on the outside looking in: Michael Smith (30.3 percent in 449 appearances), Ryan (30.1 percent in 577), and MacMullan (28.9 percent in 691).
Obviously, Simers’ rogue first-place vote catapulted him to a position far exceeding his stats (10 wins in 65 appearances) but his win on the pilot episode really stood out to one old-school fan.
Should the show go on for another 3,300 episodes — in addition to the public finally finding out if Tony Reali will ever age — a new crop of panelists have a chance to build historic resumes. Sarah Spain, who joined in February 2016, has come out of the gates hot, capturing the win in 21 of 68 shows. Kate Fagan has won at a 27 percent clip through 137 episodes.
The simple beauty of Around the Horn is that there are guests with whom the viewer agrees and guests who drive the viewer crazy. It’s a show built around tastes and subjectivity. There is no one-size-fits-all panel that would satisfy everyone. Mix and match anyone from the list — or even add someone who was snubbed — and the show will go on, with all the necessary takes and muting.