Pigs at the Trough

Tony Kornheiser Makes a Non-Liar Out of New York Subway Franchisees

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The other night I was watching the New York Mets play the resurgent (!) Philadelphia Phillies and on comes a commercial for Subway restaurants. In many ways, it was a typically insipid baseball ad: the Yankees' Joe Torre and the Mets' Willie Randolph walking together toward a post-game press conference (for some bizarre reason, as they manage teams in different leagues).

Willie is commiserating with Joe, who evidently has some explaining to do, but Joe tells Willie not to worry; he's learned the key to handling the media is to give them "what they want."

Lo and behold, the waiting gaggle is all smiles, congratulating Joe for a great game (so did the Yanks lose or not?), and thanking him for the free subs. The hilarious joke is that he bought them off for the price of a few hoagies.

Try to catch your breath. It was a real-knee slapper to you, no doubt, but not to me. Because I was pissed. Yes, once upon a time sportswriters literally fed at the troughs of the teams they covered, but nowadays they pay their way for lunch in the press box and everything else. And while in spring training beat writers do serve as defacto publicity agents for the team, turning out page after page of giddily optimistic copy, they aren't going to sell out for a deli item. How could Subway be so oblivious and insulting?

About an hour later, I was watching the Pittsburgh Steelers play the resurgent (!) Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN. The new third banana in the broadcast booth is Washington Post sports columnist Tony Kornheiser. His job is mainly to be uncomfortably blunt and funny. So they set him up with emails from fans, designed for the Tony wit to flow. The question this night was which were better: the piled-high sandwiches at some shop in Pittsburgh, or the cheesesteaks at some shop in Philly.

Tony's answer: he favors whichever food is sent to the booth for free.

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