Tony Reali is the guy who has had a career path that is easy to envy: a New York kid out of Fordham who started off at ESPN as an entry-level researcher/writer, then became “Stat Boy” and soon thereafter, fell into the “Around the Horn” chair.  On television, he comes across as a jovial guy who plays the perfect foil to Tony and Mike on “PTI” while corralling the likes of Bill Plaschke on “Horn” (he gets major points for this).  Apparently, he’s also an extremely passionate intramural soccer player.

A close friend from way back in the day plays in the same co-ed intramural soccer league.  On Monday night, her team faced off against Reali’s in a playoff game.  Here is her story about going up against “Stat Boy:”

[The game begins] and I know I recognize this guy but I can’t place him… And then, all of a sudden, it hits me: ‘It’s Stat Boy!’  My ex-boyfriend and I used to watch him on ‘Around the Horn’ all the time.  On TV he looks really put together, almost debonair in a way.  You know, sharp suit, cuff links, etc.  But in person?  Not so much.  My first impression is that he looks like a dirty, dirty guido [editor's note: Duke and his friend are full-blown Italians:  she can say this, I can print it].  His hair looks good when he’s on ESPN, but in person it’s a little too much product for the real world.

Admittedly, our formation was flawed from the start, but it was clear that his team was playing for the title.  They matched their guys up against our girls; a tactic that is frowned upon in many intramural sports (emphasis on the recreational nature of this match) for the obvious reasons.  It was clear that they were setting up the guys to blow away the girls on defense.  I am not a girl looking for double standards, but let’s face it: in a sprinting match against a guy, I am rarely going to win.

Reali was matched up on me most of the night.  Perhaps I only took notice of the following things because of his quasi-celebrity status, but I’d like to think that I would openly judge any player who engaged in the following conduct.  First, there was the sound he would make on a break away.  He’d shout ‘Hoo! Hoo!’ like an owl on steroids hoping to get a pass.  I get it, I played soccer all my life.  Obviously you want to call for the ball without alerting the other team.  However, most players clap, or whistle, or yell a simple ‘hey.’  Let’s just say that the bird calls got old fast.

Second, was the hand-slap.  Stat Boy would sub-out frequently.  I mean, c’mon, is sprinting past a girl several times while hollering like an owl considered hard work?  On one of his ways out he ran past me and high-fived me.  Huh?  That was a first.  We weren’t on the same team and it wasn’t the end of the game.  But perhaps the most annoying conduct was that after he beat me on a break away, he’d yell ‘Good Hustle!’ on his way back.  In all likelihood he was trying to be a good sport, but it couldn’t have come across more condescendingly.  Seriously, telling me ‘Good Hustle’ after you got a shot off before I reached the box is like saying, “Hey, way to run it out!  At least you didn’t walk!”

I admit I was getting beat.  A lot.  This went on for most of the first-half until finally I had one shining moment.  I challenged him properly, stripped him of the ball, and just as I was about to dribble past, I feel his leg wrapped around mine and down I go.  He tripped me!  This wasn’t one of those respectable late challenges where a leg is stuck out usually getting some ball.  Nope, this was the most intentional way of him tripping someone without him throwing his arms into me.  Unfortunately, it’s on the far sideline too far away for the ref to see, so there is no foul.  It was so crappy: you beat me every other time, you got beat by a girl, ONCE.  Have some respect and not trip me!

Of course they won, 2-0.  Stat Boy is feeling pretty good about himself with his smug smile.  His end of the game “Good Game!” hand slap was severely undermined by the fact that my left knee is now black and blue and busted just in time for my triathlon this Sunday.  What would Woody and Jay say? [ed. note: probably something that's not funny and/or possibly sexist].  Well, at least he got the hand-slap timing right this time.

In the words of Michael Wilbon, “I’m not surprised.”  Italians are notoriously dirty players.  To be fair, Reali’s opponent professed to enjoying him on air and didn’t think he was that bad.  She was still bitter over the loss, but I’ll let this do the talking (HORN!!!!):

"He looked like a dirty, dirty guido." You don't say...

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