Pardon the Interruption – or PTI as it is more commonly known – celebrated its 20th year on the air this week. In terms of sports commentary and discussion, I believe it has been the gold standard for most of those two decades. For a while, it was in a dead heat with ESPN’s Sunday morning program The Sports Reporters hosted by Dick Schapp for best sports discussions on TV.
Obviously, a program like that can only work if the two folks having the discussion are thoughtful and entertaining. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are both of those things, and I believe they bring something else to the program that sets it apart. These two people are genuine friends in real life away from the program – – and it shows. If any other sports discussion/”debate” program on the air now features this kind of genuine friendship off the air between or among the participants, I have not found it.
- [Aside: It is this same element of real friendship between the participants that I find very attractive about the “Manningcasts” of Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli.]
The idea of discussing a sports “issue” among friends is a natural happening for sports fans. Watching PTI always gives me the sense that I am eavesdropping on a discussion of that sort. That is a totally different feeling that I get from the faux-debate programs where my sense is that I am doing something in my life and a couple of guys have intruded on my life by arguing over minutiae that need not be argued over.
For those who have not been resident in the Washington DC area, both Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were sports columnists for the Washington Post for years before anyone ever saw them on PTI. Kornheiser was also a radio presence in the DC area in the 90s once sports radio came to town and he often had Wilbon on as a guest on his program; I suspect that people in the DC area who had listened to the two of them on the radio were not surprised to see the way they handled the program format on PTI.
I would like to be able to wish Tony and Michael another two decades on the air entertaining and informing folks. That is not likely in the cards; Kornheiser is 73 years old; Wilbon is a mere stripling at 62 years old. But I can certainly wish for another decade on the air for the two of them.
Let me move along to another issue that is centered on the DC area. While it is indeed correct to say that the NFL season is still in its infancy, it is also correct to say that the defensive unit for the Washington Football Team has been a huge underachieving hot mess. It was a “Top 5” unit last year; it is a “Bottom 5” unit this year. What makes this “fall from grace” even more jarring for fans here is that the face of the defense – Chase Young – set a standard of expectation for the unit that is lofty beyond what was achieved last year. One of Young’s pronouncements was that he and the other starting defensive end – Montez Sweat – were aiming to break the NFL record for combined sacks by edge rushers.
- [Aside: After three games the pair of them have a total of 3 sacks and all of them belong to Montez Sweat.]
Chase Young is 22 years old; he is a chronological adult; he is also an extremely talented athlete and football player. At the same time, I am not even close to the point where I might attach the label “mature” to Chase Young. He seems completely caught up in a “Hey, Look At Me” persona; if I wanted to be unkind to him – and I have no reason to do that – I would suggest that he is trying to replace Terrell Owens as the NFL’s poster child for self-aggrandizement.
During his rookie year in 2020, Young was a highly vocal and visible cheerleader for the team on the sidelines and on the field. Combined with a rookie year that earned him Defensive Rookie of the Year, most of his antics were likeable and even marginally entertaining. However, as the season ended, Young’s “cheerleading” took a turn. As the Football Team left the field in the final game knowing they were NFC East champions and headed for a playoff game against the Bucs, Young announced that Tom Brady needed to take care because Young was coming to get him. A 21-year-old (at the time) was calling out Tom Brady and telling Brady to beware… Let that sink in.
- [Aside: In that playoff game, Young had no sacks, one solo tackle, two assisted tackles and no QB hits in 64 defensive snaps. I don’t think Tom Brady figured that he had dodged a bullet once that game was over.]
If that was a one-off incident, I could write it off as the exuberance of youth. However, it seems to have carried over into the offseason. Young spent much of the offseason involved with TV appearances and shooting commercials. No problem with that; those are some of the perks that come to a Defensive Rookie of the Year who is also extroverted and attractive. The problem is that those activities seem to have been on an equal footing with continued development as a football player. Young missed every OTA for the team and reportedly was a rare participant in the team-sponsored conditioning activities. In fact according to reports, he the only member of the defense not to be part of even one half-day of OTAs.
Young played very well last year partly because he was new and different in addition to being naturally gifted as an athlete. However, offensive coordinators and offensive line coaches around the league did not spend the last offseason filming commercials or appearing on TV shows; they were watching film and working with their charges who actually did show up for OTAs how they might counter some of what Chase Young might want to do in 2021. Put in the vernacular, it appears that offensive linemen have been coached up to thwart what Young did successfully last year and Young seems not to have added any nuances to his repertoire of ways to get to the QB/ball-carrier from last year.
Once again, if that were the sum and substance of the issue, it would seem to be something that coaches and player could address and correct. But wait, there’s more… After last week’s loss to the Bills where the Football Team’s defense gave up almost 500 yards and 41 points, Young seemed not to take much ownership of the debacle. Here is his statement after the game:
“We’ve just got to play together; we’re not doing that right now. You know, the D-line, we’re not the only people on the field. It’s the linebackers, the DBs. We all have to play as one.”
Finally, let me close today with some advice from Mark Twain:
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………