This week, we spoke with Mr. Tony Reali ’96, host of ESPN’s Around The Horn.
From The Start
From his youngest days, Tony Reali has always been a sports fanatic. Whether it was taking his place among the Colts Crazies at home games or covering football and men’s basketball for Fordham’s WFUV, sports knowledge were his bread and butter.
He knew he wanted to be a sportscaster. The challenge was in finding a path to get there. “There’s no roadmap to getting on air,” said Reali in a phone interview.
Instead, his path to primetime was made through diligent work and abundant ambition. He spent countless hours learning the ins and outs of radio while at Fordham University before setting his sights on the next step. “There have been numerous positions I’ve been in in life where I had to just take a leap and say ‘yes’…’yes’ is a word that opens doors.”
Reali said “yes” to joining ESPN in 2000 as a researcher for the short-lived sports quiz showTwo-Minute Drill. His first TV appearance came a year later, as “Stat Boy” on the critically-acclaimed Pardon the Interruption. It was shortly thereafter, at 25, when Reali got the call to guest host for ESPN’s weeknight sports show, Around the Horn.
This February marks the twelfth year Reali has been at the Horn helm. Over 2,400 episodes later, and the show remains the highest rated on ESPN next to Pardon The Interruption (PTI).
After thirteen years, Reali left PTI in 2014 to add some reporting duties with Good Morning America, relocating to New York with his wife Samiya and welcoming the birth of their now one-year-old, Francesca (all within the span of 3 weeks!)
Behind The Scenes
Preparations for Around The Horn start with plenty of research the night before. In the morning, Tony heads to Twitter for the latest trending topics, while contributing to a Google Doc shared with the show’s producers. They exchange potential stories and postworthy information before holding a mid-morning conference call that includes the day’s panelists. From the call, Tony gets a better sense of where and how he can guide the day’s discourse come showtime.
After the call, Reali writes up to 12 opening scripts for introducing the major stories that panelists will discuss. Outside of this, however, the show remains an unscripted, colorful sports roundtable- always ending with Reali’s signature paper ball toss at the camera. “I kind of think of my job as host of Around The Horn as to make the panelists forget their on TV for the moment and have a real, organic conversation,” said Reali.
In hosting, Reali is tasked with a delicate balancing act of managing information, discussions, and entertainment- with three cameras, four joysticks and several million critical viewers. “I have four panelists in my ear and I have two producers in my ear and one director and one researcher who could be in my ear at anytime,” said Reali. “My biggest task at the time is to compartmentalize those voices…”
Taping ends an hour or so before the show airs at 5 p.m. EST. Afterwards, Reali remains vigilant of developing stories and stays in touch with the team at Good Morning America as assignments are discussed and explored on an on-going basis.
What It Takes
Using a stable of 13 panelists, expert perspectives, and a drive to create “memorable, relatable, unpredictable television,” Around The Horn focuses on tapping into a special cultural dynamic. The challenge of remaining accurate and insightful is certainly daunting, but one Reali welcomes with open arms.
In discerning the right career path or focus, Reali puts heavy emphasis on curiosity. “It [personal or professional pursuits] has to be whatever satisfies your own personal curiosity,” he said.
Reali also emphasized the need “to roll with it” when challenges arise. That could mean taking a job you might feel intimidated by. Or in Reali’s case, that may also mean proposing in between the men’s and women’s bathroom at LaGuardia Airport after a hotel concierge lost your engagement ring. “In a world that’s constantly changing and evolving, you have to be able to change with it, adapt with it, and roll with it.”
Reali’s future is set on remaining a dedicated dad, working on a potential passion project or two, and eventually writing children’s books. While he’s not quite ready to leave the world of sportscasting just yet, he more than embraces the new responsibility as a father.
Coming Back for Seconds (Or Ninths)
This Sunday, February 28th marks Reali’s ninth Father-Son Communion breakfast and second time speaking. “I’ve always enjoyed what it represents…time with your dad, time with role models and exploring who those role models are in your life,” said Reali.
In looking back, he misses the positive relationships with the Brothers, with faculty and the CBA community. He remains grateful to the Academy, for helping give him that strong foundation to succeed.
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