There are half a handful of TV shows that I actually watch. I have the TV on a lot while I’m playing guitar, writing, surfing the net and so on. In those situations, I’m sort of vaguely aware of what’s flashing on the screen. I’ll pause and watch for five minutes here and there and that’s about it.

When “PTI”comes on, I pay attention to the extent that I sometimes stop what I’m doing. Why? It combines two things I love: sports and rhetoric. Most people who write or talk about sports, especially as professionals, are unbelievably stupid. They speak in fallacious platitudes like “defense wins championships.” This stupidity is frustrating, even more than usual, because sports are a great thing to argue about.

When I first saw PTI, I figured it would be a couple of dumbfucks throwing those platitudes around in a format meant to convey edginess and machismo. I figured I was in for more Jim Rome wannabes. In truth, hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are much better than Rome and his pile of catch phrases. They argue, as in presenting actual arguments for their points of view. They argue pithily and with conviction and wit. It’s like “Crossfire,” but about sports and without the disingenuous shills.

Now, Tony and Michael do say some stupid things. For example, about a week ago Kornheiser said that Rafeal Palmero doesn’t deserve to be in the hall of fame. But the unusual opinions are part of the spice. Being unconventionally wrong can be a worthwhile pursuit, but going along with the crowd against reason is a symptom of intellectual atrophy. The important difference here is that watching someone go against the grain makes for good TV while watching wrongheaded banality makes for most TV.

The best part of the show comes when each guy takes several turns holding up one of those masks on a stick, playing the role of a celebrity while the guy interrogates him. The other day, Wilbon tore in to Tony, who was playing the role of Kordell Stewart. Then he went after Burt Reynolds, screaming at Reynolds/Kornheiser “you haven’t done anything in 20 years! And don’t say Boogie Nights because that was a bit part!” PTI is one of the best shows on television.