I grew up in a house where my dad would always remind me that there was no family business to pass down. At the same time, though, there was always the encouragement for me to follow a professional path that would give me a sense of purpose and fulfillment, rather than just quick rewards through a paycheck. There was the reminder throughout my teenage years that, for my dad, the monetary success came well after personal satisfaction and ambition were met. These present lessons made me think over the years: What does it mean for any of us to be successful? Does success mean getting your own column and climbing the journalistic ranks, or quite simply, does it mean reaching your childhood dream? No, I did not have the same childhood dreams as my dad; in a way, that would have been easy, to have that clear of a vision as a child—not all of us are that lucky.
My dad's radio show has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I could break it down into four main categories: the local 570 days of elementary school; the national ESPN days which allowed me to go to private school and gave rise to the first of the vacations; the back and forth days of MNF football and the confusion over Billy Joel's famous last words, words that left lingering questions into the summer of will he or won't he come back; and, finally, the meta—see what I did there for those of you in the club?—iteration of the taped-for-live-podcast that we hear today, replete with such voices as the over-confident Chris Cillizza, perfectly-timed Gary Braun, ex-pat Marc Sterne, Tony-scolding David Aldridge, mom-card-carrier Torie Clarke, bacon-prowler Jeanne McManus and, when lucky, the sigh of reason, Liz Clarke.
Now, while this show has been on in the background of my life and I have slowly become known to many of dad's listeners from father-son golf highlights and lowlights and, more recently, my return to the D.C. area and the start of my own family, its presence has definitely grown in these post college years. (Dad jokes that there just comes a time when you want to hear smart people talking, not just music. I began to realize in graduate school—more fully than even from the first-and-last-annual-nerds-in-paradise-golf-tournament in 2005—the power of The Tony Kornheiser Show community.) Oddly enough, it was with my now wife, Liz, where I saw the reach (to be honest, the potential) beyond the expected audience when we were driving down the Merritt Parkway on our way back to DC and listened to dad break down the Golden Globe nominees with the enthusiasm of a normal sports-show host breaking down a mock draft.
My daily listening led to follow up phone calls, more dinners at the house and even the sharing of the show with my in-laws. (There is nothing quite like getting into your mother-in-law’s car to hear the familiar chant of "Tony, Tony, ahhhh, Tony, Tony" start abruptly from the Bluetooth connection of her phone.) Now, for the past few years back in DC, I have had more of a chance to offer feedback on segments and guests, which is a polite way to say, I became a fully-fledged little who had the chance to "call in" and not only ask "how are you doing?" without getting the "Banned from The Tony Kornheiser Show" button but also vent my mounting frustration: "I can't believe you misdirected your guest here (remember the first appearance by Chelsea Janes?)" and "How could you twist my words with ____________ (this is pretty much the case with every interview with Steve Sands)?"
I now find myself at a time when the nascent nature of how the podcast version of the show has grown within the on-demand market and where I am in my professional and personal lives that gives me a chance not only to help amplify what I believe is more than just a great show—nominally-sports-adult-talk-show, that is—because of its community but also to try a new field, one which I hope will give me space to combine some of my skills as a communicator and teacher in a new venue. The added benefit is the chance to strengthen (hopefully) what becomes increasingly more important to me as I get older—family—and my relationship with my dad.
I return to the idea of success and recognize that in my professional path to this point, teaching could and would give me the real-time feedback to know real success, even through the simple act of working with teenagers struggling through understanding themselves, let alone the questions as to what “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” would bring any of us. As we look forward to this new venture, what will success look like? Will I have the same recognizable moments of clarity as from my teaching? Do I have the same realizable goals as my dad trying to get his first column (maybe even a columnette)? I honestly do not know. So far, the interactions I have enjoyed as a larger part of The Tony Kornheiser Show community and the new challenges presented through my ever-changing role representing the show have allowed me to feel that success even before we weigh download numbers: working with our partners from DGital Media and IMG to balance our desire to honor where the show has been for twenty some years with the need for growth, primarily, and with our wonderful, friend-of-the-show graphic design, Jeff Jones, to find a visual aesthetic to capture the unique quality of the show and its brand.
No, dad, there is no family business to pass down, no front signage that can say "Tony and Son(s)". I do know this: I am excited to get on the bike and give this a spin—I’ll make sure we are both wearing white.