TV Review: ESPN’s “Around the Horn” Adds Some Fresh Fun to the Debate

ESPN’s Around the Horn has updated its look but kept its long-standing winning form of “competitive” sports banter. Each day, a group of four sports journalists offer their opinions on a variety of topic over the course of the show. As they speak, you watch the counter beneath increase or decrease at the whim of host Tony Reali. If he finds one or more are being too long-winded or perhaps talking over another journalist while not advancing the conversation, he can choose to mute them.  After the initial round of topics, the field is narrowed to two journalists and then the show’s last few moments are given to the journalist who has accrued the most points from that face-off.

Over the years, Around the Horn has provided a variety of sports writers from across the country a chance to introduce themselves to a different market. It was through this program that I sought out the writings of the Woody Paige, Jackie MacMullan, Tim Cowlishaw, and learned about more about the sports writer I’d read in my local paper, Bill Plaschke.

Deftly helmed by its long-time host Tony Reali, Around the Horn now takes advantage of new technologies to seemingly bringing the various talking heads into the space with Reali or add more a dynamic background to the journalist as they share their insights. During the premiere edition, viewers saw flames erupt as Sarah Spain offered a hot take and the background behind Mina Kimes fill with equations as she backed up her take with a variety of metrics.

Along with the increased energy that these kinetic backdrops bring viewers at home are invited to vote along adding or subtracting points as the opinions flow.

The reboot of Around the Horn hit all the right tones for this longtime viewer who has admittedly let the program slip off my viewing rotation at times, mostly catching portions here or there via Twitter or when I leave ESPN following a program or tune in early for another. The recent transition found me setting a reminder to make sure I could participate in the fun — and it was fun clicking on that plus or minus button under a select journalist. Happy to say I didn’t abuse the new power like ESPN’er Pablo Torres did:

And as always Tony Reali’s ability to navigate the writer’s banter like an orchestra conductor who encourages the strings to soften as the woodwinds crescendo and take the lead before they are suddenly interrupted by the percussion. He somehow manages to allow each of these personalities to have their moment. His supportive nature, even if he is disagreeing with your overall point, shines through always and makes Around the Horn a unique treasure in sports talk programming.

Previously he did all this while firmly seated behind a podium with three controls (plus point, minus point, mute) per journalist. His new console now sports 11 controls per guest and they’ve added an unseen waltz around the crew as they rearrange the set between segments. You can learn so much more about how the magic happens by checking out the twitter feed of ESPN’s Jonathan Nagle but here’s my favorite:

And while we’re talking behind-the-scenes, check out Tony’s podium on premiere day. Two bananas are sitting on it. In checking out Tony’s Twitter, I discovered his story that the show’s new location at ESPN’s South Street Seaport Studios sits at Pier 17 where his grandparents would make money unloading bananas off boats.

In any case, if it’s been a while since you’ve watched ESPN’s Around the Horn, I’d definitely recommend checking out the updated fun.

Rebekah Moseley
Rebekah grew up frequently going to Disneyland and met her husband there as annual passholders. Together they co-founded to share their love and fun experiencing all things Disney with other fans. Rebekah's favorite Disney princess is Cinderella and if she could snap her fingers and be anywhere within the created Disney worlds, it's Typhoon Lagoon's lazy river which she considers Imagineering perfection.