“Counterfeit Stat Boy,” Pablo S. Torre, relishing the Reali fill-in role

Pablo S. Torre

Pablo S. Torre attempts the end of show paper toss while guest hosting Around the Horn.

ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com senior writer Pablo S. Torre is a regular contributor to Around the Horn (this week airing at 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and on several occasions recently – including this week – he has occupied the host chair, manning the mute button for Tony Reali, who is taking time off to be with his wife and newborn daughter.

Torre’s Double Duty: The average day of work for Pablo S. Torre in his role as “counterfeit” Tony Reali:

8 a.m. ET – Wakeup and with one eye still closed, stare at my phone and start monitoring the running Google Doc that serves as the first draft of the ATH rundown. The goal is to start contemplating what’s compelling — dialectically, narratively, statistically, culturally, comedically, whatever.

10:30 a.m. – In the newsroom, taking notes on the daily conference call the producers have with the four panelists. I’m also using (our broadcast script software) and racing the clock to write every line in the show that’s not improvised: the welcome, topic set-ups, questions, bumps previewing the next blocks, etc. While that’s going on, I’m asking [coordinating producer] Aaron Solomon and associate producer Josh Bard questions.

1:15 p.m. – I’m dressed and getting makeup.

3 p.m. – Ideally, we’re done taping ATH. Then I head back upstairs, check in on Misters Wilbon and Kornheiser and their rundown, and resume asking annoying questions and checking facts and hosting mini-games where necessary while trying very hard to not be in awe of the fact that all of this is, temporarily, my job.

6 p.m. – Back at my computer to make calls and resume writing a Mag feature I have due next week. At some point I collapse in my hotel bed.

Torre recalls first being asked to step into this role while on vacation. He was riding a ferry at Walt Disney World when Erik Rydholm, the executive producer for ATH, Pardon the Interruption and Highly Questionable, texted to see if he could fill in two days later. Cutting his trip a day short, Torre jumped at the chance. While covering the World Cup in Brazil this summer, he got the call again for the stint he is currently doing.

Front Row spoke with Torre to find out how he prepared himself for ATH as well as his fill-in role for Reali as PTI’s popular “Stat Boy.”

What was your initial response to being asked?
My general sense from my two years at ESPN, and bothering people who know and have accomplished so much more: it’s generally best to embrace whatever opportunities happen to be thrown at you, no matter how intimidating – maybe especially if they’re intimidating — and so here I am. Not unconscious, yet.

Did Reali give you any advice?
Reali and I have talked about hosting ATH before. In fact, he was as encouraging as humanly possible from the start, back in March, when he left me a tie bar (!), antacid (!!) and a four-page handwritten letter (!!!) in his absence. If Reali is half as caring a dad as he is a host/friend — SPOILER ALERT: he is — his newborn daughter, Francesca, just won the genetic lottery.

Did you do anything special to prepare for the role of “Stat Boy”?
I honestly didn’t know I’d even be doing any of that until the first morning I showed up this month. I’d just arrived in the newsroom when Rydholm walked up and asked if I wanted to host a game that day on PTI and do other “Stat Boy” activities. I eventually realized I’d spent four years checking facts at Sports Illustrated and that only instinct can prepare you for when PTI fill-in co-host Dan Le Batard calls you “COUNTERFEIT STAT BOY” on television.

How would you assess this week and how it has gone?
It’s been a surreal, probably transformative part of my professional education. My aspiration is to get better, or at least increasingly comfortable, with every new episode of ATH and PTI. It feels like that might be happening; I mean, I hit the camera with the paper toss yesterday, which is at least a personal athletic milestone.

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