Kornheiser may well have been railroaded by whichever members of ESPN's high court also serve on Chris Berman's bowling team, but I think we can all agree on one thing: T.K. is a man who has richly earned his railroading.
Kornheiser was a great writer, once, and then he stopped writing as much and started talking on television, and it wasn't long before people realized he was just another sneering, yammering sports-talk Muppet, one whose shtick could often curdle into nastiness, both on and off the air. He was a dick to a great many people over the years — occasionally with good reason, but more often without — and what follows is a far from comprehensive list (thanks goes to Jack Shafer for putting many of these in one place):
• Dave McKenna, Washington City Paper columnist and one-time Washington Post stringer. Via David Carr of The New York Times:
In 1998, he made a glancing reference to Mr. Kornheiser in his City Paper column. Mr. McKenna subsequently encountered Mr. Kornheiser at the holiday party for the Post's sports department.
"He jumped up from his table, and said, ‘We got to talk,' " Mr. McKenna recounted. "I thought he was joking because I had always thought he was this funny guy on the radio. But he took me in the hallway and said, ‘You will never work for a real newspaper' and then he opens his jacket and pulls out a copy of the column that had all this magic marker on it and writing in the margins."
"My jaw just dropped," Mr. McKenna continued. "His face turned orange while he was yelling at me and I thought, ‘Wait till my friends hear about this.' This really famous funny guy seemed like he was going crazy."
But Mr. Kornheiser was serious. The next time Mr. McKenna wrote about Mr. Kornheiser was in 2000, upon the retirement of local sports talker Ken Beatrice, an event that was covered with a great deal of hagiography in The Washington Post. But Mr. McKenna noted that back in 1981, Mr. Kornheiser, then a reporter, had written a savage takedown of Mr. Beatrice, causing him a considerable amount of personal pain.
Mr. McKenna was summoned to the office of George Solomon, then the assistant managing editor for sports, and told he was through working for The Post. "He was very nice about it, but said he had a department to run," Mr. McKenna said.
(He was a dick to Ken Beatrice, too, while we're at it. As McKenna pointed out, the profile exposed the shocking fact that people who talk extemporaneously about sports on the radio occasionally make factual errors. Beatrice took a leave of absence before the story even hit the streets.)
• Paul Farhi, Washington Post staff writer, who wrote of Kornheiser's debut as Monday Night Football analyst: "He wasn't especially witty, provocative or insightful. ... It was enough to make one yearn for Dennis Miller ..." In response, he called Farhi a "putz" in a column and later whined to Dan Patrick:
I apparently got ripped in my own newspaper by a two-bit weasel slug named Paul Farhi who I would gladly run over with a Mack truck given the opportunity. I understand I'm a public figure and I'm subject to review, but I thought my own newspaper would be kinder and I wouldn't be backstabbed by this guy.
• Mike Golic, who suggested that Kornheiser shouldn't have gotten the MNF job because he never played football and who said of Kornheiser's debut: "I thought it was fine." Golic is demonstrably stupid, but Kornheiser's response was a little unhinged:
I'm watching people talk about me and I want to scream. I heard Golic rip me and just say that my performance was nothing. Wasn't bad, wasn't good, didn't mean anything to him. Didn't shake his world.... I just want to ring [sic] Golic's neck and hang him up over the back of a shower rod like a duck.
• Jay Mariotti, on whom Kornheiser also wished a traffic-related death:
Kornheiser was asked if he would would mind if Mariotti and a bus occupied the same space at the same point in time. Kornheiser responded that it would be fine by him if Mariotti was scraped off the front of that bus.
• Chuck Klosterman, who once wrote: "I recently saw an episode of "PTI" when Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon actively self-identified themselves as liberals, yet still came out in favor of the NBA's newly installed dress code (curiously, Kornheiser would capriciously reverse his position in subsequent episodes)." Kornheiser spent three days howling about Klosterman and demanding that he explain himself.
• Dan Steinberg, D.C. Sports Bog blogger and former Whole Foods cheese buyer, whom Kornheiser delighted in calling Cheese Boy. Consider this exchange between Kornheiser and radio pal Andy Pollin (commentary is Steinberg's):
Tony: What will I do? I'd like to, I'd like to do something like I did before, that is very current, very sort of small and, you know, sort of idiosyncratic. But I notice, I notice in the paper now that in the space I used to have, they've given it to the Cheese Boy (laughter). So I don't, you know, I guess there's no room for me in the paper.
Andy: The blogger? [Naked contempt oozing out of the speakers on my computer.]
Tony: Yeah, the Cheese Boy.
Andy: Is that what you call Dan Steinberg?
Tony: Well he went to, he went to, where were the last Olympics? Afghanistan, Norway?
Andy: Yeah, something like that.
Tony: Wherever, Brazil. And he wrote about cheese every day. [Ed. note: I think I actually missed a few days, when I was concentrating on curling.]
Andy: That's right, yeah.
Tony: So I call him the Cheese Boy. And I, you know, I don't know, if that's.... Look, if that's his territory now, you know, God bless him, that's fine with me. [As movers show up at my desk and start packing up my things.] I'm sure that I could find some spot on D7, you know, right behind the tire ads. [As HR starts talking to me about possible compensation packages.] People would find me if they cared. [Plus, my cell phone number is actually owned by The Post. That's gonna be inconvenient.]
Andy: Well I know The Examiner is looking for people, so in case you want to send out a resume.... [Evil cackling. I think. Maybe I imagined that part. Anyhow, I'm toast.]
• Jack Shafer, whose criticism in the Washington City Paper led Kornheiser, in his Sunday humor column, to create a fictional psychiatrist who says, "Well, the symptoms were so obvious even my imbecile lab technician Shafer, whom we can't trust with anything more complicated than collecting the urine specimens, could see it."
• Norman Chad, syndicated columnist and onetime Kornheiser acolyte. The two had an as-yet-unexplained falling-out that Chad has described thusly:
With Tony it's been more problematic and it goes beyond that, but as I like to tell people about Tony, who I've known forever and haven't now for, actually, several months — if not more than a year — to paraphrase Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, about his mother, ‘Tony is dead to me.'
• Mike Wise, Washington Post columnist, who had the temerity to be a good, bald, and multi-platformed media entity at the same newspaper as good, bald, multi-platformed Kornheiser. He was most likely talking about Wise when he referred to "other people at the paper who come to town and in three days steal all my stuff and say, 'Oh, I want to be like him, so I'll take EVERY THING HE DOES and pretend like nobody's seen it before.'" Kornheiser would reportedly tell friends, "I hate Mike Wise." I asked Wise about the rivalry. He e-mailed:
[W]e went back and forth during a radio brouhaha in october I think and I called him some names but he never was an ass in person. I mean, it's like, "Tony Is Insecure So He Deals By Attacking Others." News flash. Now, if he actually treated others swell and dropped the camouflage of hurting others to compensate for his own inadequacies, that's a headline. That's a Tony I would like to meet and know.
UPDATE: Forgot one: