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Kornheiser entertains at Harpur Forum

By : Stephen P. Jensen

Tony Kornheiser, center, is seen here with Jeff Lake, left, and Dave Simek, right, at last week’s Harpur Forum.
Shortly after appearing before about 200 in his Harpur Forum engagement September 17 at the Binghamton Club, Washington Post columnist, ESPN talk host, author and Binghamton University alum Tony Kornheiser ’71, had a confession of sorts.

Asked if he or fellow ESPN Sports Reporters panelist Mike Lupica were the most excitable, the effusive Kornheiser sidestepped, then re-directed.

“Michael’s not more excitable. He’s more competitive,” Kornheiser said of his close friend. “Lupica bores in, and Michael wants to win a little more than I do. I want to be funny more than he does. So when he bores in, I try to deflect that and turn it around on him.”

It’s what works for the sports writer who’s sprouted numerous branches since his days as a Colonial, living on Floral Avenue in Johnson City.

“When I travel coast to coast,” said President Lois B. DeFleur, introducing Kornheiser, “when I meet with alumni, I find they’re so accomplished in so many fields. Authors, award-winning journalists and television personalities.

“Here we’ve got an alum who combines all three. We’re very proud of Tony.”

Kornheiser wasn’t the only one getting laughs.

“After he got over the change from the Colonials, we finally got him to put a stuffed Bearcat on the set,” DeFleur said of Kornheiser’s most nationally visible claim to fame, his weekday ESPN program Pardon The Interruption.

In a forum that loosely mirrored his show - on which Kornheiser and fellow Post columnist Mike Wilbon joust over current events, sports-related and not - Dave Simek, associate director of athletics, and Jeff Lake, senior vice president at NBT Bank, took turns firing questions at Kornheiser during the local breakfast program.

Among topics touched upon were the Washington Redskins and new/old coach Joe Gibbs (Kornheiser: They won’t make the playoffs), the NHL season (Kornheiser: Say goodbye to hockey for a long time), and the Boston Red Sox (Kornheiser: Good team this year, but wouldn’t it be more fun to keep “the curse” alive?).

Topics eventually drifted to Binghamton.

“Years ago Georgetown University was an excellent academic institution,” Kornheiser said. “They made a decision to increase the profile of their athletics, and they went national. The amount of applicants they received afterward was amazing.

“The same sort of thing happened when Doug Flutie was at Boston College,” he added. “He alone was responsible for $6 million in application fees. You can do this with basketball, relatively inexpensively, with a great return.”

After the ballroom cleared, Kornheiser lingered.

Kornheiser said he’s pleased that his alma mater is taking a leading role in the revitalization of the Southern Tier, and that any school “would be crazy” not to cherish the part.

“When I went to school here, the town-gown relationship wasn’t very good,” he said. “People were suspicious of the people who went to Harpur College. But if you have a good relationship – the town-gown is good – I would think the school would love that.

And Kornheiser said no one should worry about Binghamton athletics taking a front seat over academics, although he waits for the day when the two are mentioned in the same breath.

“The Georgetown basketball team just made Georgetown better known,” he said. “It highlighted that Georgetown was a very good institution. It helped them and it helped Boston College.

“But I don’t think you ever have to worry about that at Binghamton,” Kornheiser added. “Hand in hand with any (basketball) success, people are going to say, ‘And it’s a very good school.’ And it’s always been a good school.

“I’d be happy if Binghamton was known as an athletic power. I had a good education,” he said, “and I can sell the educational part. I’d like for somebody to sell the athletic part.”

Through his numerous media roles, Kornheiser’s still just a transparent fan, though. Watching the ESPN scrolls during the winter season and seeing the Binghamton basketball programs crawl past is a thrill, he said.

“I get excited,” he said. “I think that’s great.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08