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Unreal Ride for Reali hits 20 Years: ESPN Salutes Around The Horn Host’s Milestone

Tony Reali: "I've done so many shows since Feb. 2, 2004, it kind of feels like a flashback in a movie . . . but it happened, and I'm happy it did!"

Today marks a special anniversary at ESPN. . . Tony Reali has been hosting Around the Horn for 20 years. That’s more than 5,000 weekday shows over two decades – and an infinite number of mutes and paper tosses.

It’s been a remarkable run and one that began on February 1, 2004, when Reali – then the 25-year-old “Stat Boy” on Pardon The Interruption – was in his Washington, D.C. apartment watching Super Bowl XXXVIII. He received a call at the end of the second quarter from producer Bill Wolff, asking if he could fill in as host for Max Kellerman the next day.

Reali agreed, and little did he know Monday’s show would feature two of the biggest stories of the year – the Patriots’ thrilling 32-29 Super Bowl victory AND the now-infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ from the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake halftime show, which took place just minutes after Wolff’s fateful call.

Reali only had one suit at the time – which he remembers sweating through during that first show. He filled in for a couple of days and by Wednesday, “it was time to go shopping.” Kellerman had made the decision to leave ESPN, and Reali was offered the ATH job full-time.

“I don’t know if I believe in luck, but I am one lucky man. It feels like this happened to somebody else,” Reali says. “I’ve done so many shows since Feb. 2, 2004, it kind of feels like a flashback in movie. Maybe that happens when something is so big it changes your whole life in an instant, it becomes. . . pause. . . cinema! But check the tape, it happened and I’m happy it did!”

Tony Reali's ESPN Timeline

July 2000

Joins ESPN as researcher for the quiz show Two Minute Drill. Later promoted to writer.

October 2001

Hired as the researcher for Pardon the Interruption. Assumes the on-air role of “Stat Boy” when PTI debuts on ESPN.

February 2004

Previously a fill-in host and guest panelist, named full-time host of Around the Horn.

September 2014

Moves from Washington, D.C. to New York, to continue hosting ATH and to join ABC’s Good Morning America as a correspondent, a role he occupied through 2018.

November 2018

Begins hosting from ATH’s new augmented reality South Street Seaport studio in Manhattan at Pier 17, the site where his grandfathers worked decades earlier unloading bananas off boats prior to World War II.

November 2022

Around the Horn celebrates 20 years on ESPN, including a one-hour TV special.

Editor’s Note: For more on Reali, The Athletic profiled him in December 2022 when ATH marked its 20 years on ESPN.  In April 2021, Front Row marked Reali’s 20th year working at ESPN and the announcement of a new multi-year contract.

Spencer T. Jackson (ATH) and Jon McLeod (PTI) produced the videos

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