You might remember before Super Bowl XXXIX here in Jacksonville, then-Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser wrote a scathing review of Jacksonville as the host city. Since Channel 4 at the time was also owned by the Post, I invited Kornheiser to come on the air and explain his distaste for the city. He declined, but the higher-ups in Jacksonville and D.C. got involved and he was on our air the next day, via telephone, during our 6 o’clock news.
Having gone to high school and college in DC, I had read Kornheiser in the Post for years and always found his take pretty interesting. He once published a compilation of his columns and called it “Pumping Irony.” Nonetheless, I was interested to talk to him to find out why he was taking shots at my hometown.
Starting the live interview with a couple of basic questions, it became apparent to me during his answers that he really didn’t know what he was talking about.
“You’ve never been here!” I blurted out in the middle of one of his nonsensical answers.
“Well, I’ve been to the orange juice stand on 95,” he deadpanned.
“Are you at least coming to the game?” I asked.
“I’m sending (Michael) Wilbon to let him handle it,” was his answer.
After exposing the article as a farce, if not a fraudulent attempt at humor, Kornheiser spent the next couple of days on his radio show in DC ripping me, my high school and (short) college athletic career and it eventually went away.
When he was on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee, I used to sit by Mike Wilbon as he and Tony’s “hallway conversations” at the Post eventually led to their current show on ESPN, “PTI.” I don’t agree with much of what Wilbon writes, and we had that conversation several times. But I found him engaging and funny and always opinionated about what Kornheiser had to say.
“It’s about stirring it up,” he said as we left one meeting.
On Wednesday night’s edition of PTI, Kornheiser took the occasion to deride Jacksonville again, saying, tongue in cheek, that the league’s foray in to China was just an opportunity for “Jacksonville to play somewhere in a stadium that doesn’t have half of the seats covered with tarps.”
It’s an old story that’s never been true, but again trotted out by an entertainer who hasn’t done his homework and is just leaning on a perception rather than reality. We know why the stadium was built to the size it is, and by the way, just about every stadium built in the time since Jacksonville was awarded the franchise is in the 65-68,000 seat range.
That’s about the right size for any NFL team.