An interview with the legendary Woody Paige
This interview took place at Wembley in October 2010. Many people in the UK enjoy the same superb "Around the Horn" discussion show each weekday evening that viewers across America do. Four leading sportswriters compete in a series of debates on diffrernt sporting topics of the day, hosted and scored by Tony Reali.
The undisputed star of the show is Woody Paige of The Denver Post. A leading sportswriter for over 40 years, Woody writes columns on all the major professional and college sports for the paper but has seen his popularity grow dramatically since he began appearing on "Around the Horn".
And seeing him in the press area at Wembley for the Broncos v 49ers International Series game, the chance to meet such a legendary figure was one that could not be ignored. And what a wonderful and entertaining man he is too, as an initial promise for two minutes quickly became 20.
We also shared the elevator down from the press box at half-time when he realised I was serious on my promise to leave the Wembley game early to get home in time for the Bucs' encounter later that evening with the Arizona Cardinals.
How did you first become involved in the show?
I was at the Super Bowl in Tampa (the Ravens v Giants game in January 2002) and was approached by an ESPN producer. I had been doing some work for ESPN Classic previously, but they wanted to tell me about a new discussion show that would eventually become Around the Horn.
They told me I could increase my popularity - I said OK. They told me I could become more TV-minded - I said OK. They asked me to think about it and when they called back the following morning, I hadn't even thought about it at all. Then they said how much they would pay me and I said yes straight away.
The style you have on the show is pretty unique
It's just me. I started out like that and quickly got told by ESPN to tone it down. A week later I got a note asking to go back to the way I was.
And your famous blackboard with all the great comments and one-liners
Same thing. ESPN told me to lose it and a week later I got a note asking to put it back. Anything they tell me not to do, I stop and within a week I'm back doing it again.
How long does each show take to put together?
We must spend about five hours on each day's show. We start with a preparation conference call between the four sportswriters on that day, the producers and some other people. The only person who never turns up for those calls is Tony Reali - typical!
We discuss potential topics and come up with our own suggestions. We try and phrase the questions so that even if we all give pretty much the same answer (Team X will win that game), we can offer our own individual slants on it. That way it really works well. But the questions and topics can change during the day as any breaking news comes in.
Do you do your own research for the show?
ESPN sends me about 40 pages of background research each day. And I read about .... none of it. I do my own research. And I have an assistant, Jason Weindurc, who knows nothing about sports but puts all my stuff together for me. He's been doing it for about eight years now.
How does the scoring system work in Around the Horn?
Everyone asks me that and I always tell the same thing - I haven't got a clue.
You mentioned your famous blackboard, how do you come up with the ideas for it?
People send them in. I get e-mails and ideas from all over the world. Sometimes I even think of them myself, write them down on napkins and use them the following day.
Do you actually film the show in your office at The Denver Post?
Yes we do. We have a special 15'x 15' area with the backdrop and the camera. What you probably didn't know is that people come in to watch it being filmed at 2pm each day. It started with just people in the office but now all kinds of celebrities and sports people drop by to watch. When it seems like I'm talking to people around me, I really am talking to people around me.
Any good out-take stories you could mention?
Not printable ones but we often have to re-do scenes because someone has said something too rude for airing. I did it once in a recent intro and everyone was still laughing when we did the re-take. Ed - OK, it was "whose **** do I have to suck to get some points today?!
Do you get e-mails from Around the Horn fans from all over the world?
Everywhere. From Europe, Asia, from Armed Forces people serving out of the country. And lots from the UK. It's great.
And now you're here in the UK for this game
I often come over here for Wimbledon and the British Open golf and I get recognised a lot. I had been here two hours this week, was having dinner with my lady partner, and a guy came up and introduced himself, said how much he enjoyed the show and commiserated on having such an awful game to watch with the Broncos and Niners. I was just stunned.
Any great memories to take away from this trip to London?
One beautiful one. A guy recognised me and asked if he could have his picture taken. I said sure. So he asked the person next to me to just move a little so he could get his picture. It was John Elway and this other guy didn't even realise. After he had gone away, I told John that I had bragging rights for life over that one.
How long will we be seeing you on our screens on the show?
Well my contract has another two years to run. I'm 64 now, I'll be 66 then and I don't know whether they'll still want me at that stage. Bill Plaschke from the L.A.Times keeps telling me there is no way they could do the show without me, that I'm irreplacable but I don't know about that.
And finally, any chance of a mention for the British fans next time you are on the show?
For sure. I've had such a fantastic time over here, I will definitely mention you guys. And if I ever win a damn show again and get the Face Time at the end, then I'll definitely pay tribute to you all. Ed - and sure enough, Woody kept his promise a week later