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.

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.