ESPN panelist makes U.N.C.L.E. joke; host doesn’t get it

The outcome of ESPN’s Around the Horn show on May 25 depended on a joke based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Host Tony Reali didn’t get it — and that affected the outcome.

Background: Around the Horn, which airs at 5 p.m. New York time, is ESPN’s “show of competitive banter,” where four sportswriters discuss sports news of the day, with their arguments given scores by host Reali.

On May 25, sportswriters Tim Cowlishaw and Kevin Blackistone were the last two men standing and appeared on the show’s “showdown” segment. One question concerned a box who plans his own television show. Reali asked both Cowlishaw and Blackistone to start coming up with titles. After a few tries from both, Cowlishaw piped up, “The Man Who Cried UNCLE!”

Reali had no idea what Cowlishaw was talking about and took away a point. That led to Blackistone winning the contest for the day.

After Blackistone delivered a short commentary (the prize for the winner of each day’s show), Cowlishaw informed Reali about how his pun referred to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. At that point, Reali seemed to get it but didn’t real care. Too bad, given how Reali has been known to occasionally make James Bond references on Around the Horn.

ESPN quotes (sort of) from Never Say Never Again

Woody Paige, a participant on ESPN’s Around the Horn on Feb. 18 cited Never Say Never Again in analyzing the Winter Olympics.

A segment of the show devoted to “competitive banter” dealt with U.S. success this week at the Winter Olympics. “It’s like what Largo said to Bond in Never Say Never Again,” the sometimes goofy Denver Post sports columnist said, “it’s all about total world domination!”

Paige was referring to the scene in NSNA where Bond and Maximillian Largo play an elaborate video game where players try to take over territory (and the loser receives electric shocks). Largo, after winning the early rounds, is bested by 007 when the agent ups the stakes to the rest of the world.

It wasn’t the first time the ESPN show has made 007 references. Last August, host Tony Reali quoted from Goldfinger during banter with Dallas Morning News sports staffer Tim Cowlishaw.

Paige’s 007 quip didn’t help him much. He was the first sportswriter eliminated from competition. ESPN’s Michael Smith ended up the winner, besting Cowlishaw in the final “showdown” segment.

Countdown to Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary part III: even ESPN gets into the act

Goldfinger, the 007 movie about to celebrate its 45th anniversary, still is having an effect on popular culture. Consider ESPN’s Around The Horn.

On Thursday, the half-hour show of “competitive banter” featuring four sports columnists blathering about topics of the day featured a Goldfinger reference by host Tony Reali.

Reali awards points based on the arguments of the sports scribes. During a segment about a U.S.-Mexico soccer game, Reali felt some points made by Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News were too sarcastic. “Choose your next witticism carefully, it may be your last,” Reali said as he deducted points from Cowlishaw.

That, of course, is nearly a verbatim quote from Goldfinger as James Bond tries to bluff the film’s title villain. Things are a little tense. Bond is bound to a table while a laser beam is coming up between his legs.