Skip Bayless, as a major member of the sports discourse, is a lamentable thing. He gets an enormous amount of airtime to manufacture controversy, and his style of vacant carnival-barking is, if not actively lowering the intelligence of your average daytime ESPN-viewer, at least taking up time that could be given over to actual game footage or substantive analysis. It's sad to think that a man who is, in many ways, the public face of the monolithic sports media company of our age is probably half-assing his preparation and improvising in his appearances on First Take and other ESPN tent-poles.
Even sadder? The exact opposite, as it turns out. Here's Men's Journal, contrasting Bayless with his debate partner, Stephen A. Smith:
Smith, who prefers to watch games from courtside so he can chat up players before and after, usually goes on-air without index cards and seems to have done his prep in the cab ride over. Bayless, on the other hand, starts the previous evening and brings a stack of notes to the set. "The debate is often won the night before, beginning with the 6 p.m. SportsCenter," he says. "After that I watch the games and comb box scores for stats, and get up at 5 a.m. and watch a loop of the 2 a.m. SportsCenter." Childless, divorced, and void of outside interests, Bayless' one passion is protecting his record in debates. "I've never lost an argument and don't intend to start, though I'd be happy if our audience thinks Stephen won a day's debate."
Bayless isn't some sort of ESPN slickster using his money and platform to get undeserved benefits. He hasn't grown lazy or indifferent with time, or learned to fall back on schtick because no one would be able to tell the difference. He doesn't rattle off false or superficial arguments because he hasn't done enough work to know the truth. He isn't getting home from a long day of race-baiting and going straight to the club to drink away the shame. He's actually really, really invested in these debates he's having on First Take. He strategizes for them like they're war. He is "void of outside interests." He has no family. He thinks he has a debate "record" and he thinks it matters. He brings a stack of notes to the set every morning, even though those notes don't help him towards anything like insight, and his "opponent" couldn't give two shits.
Oh man. Sorry if you had anything important to do today—we're going to spend the rest of the morning crying and thinking about our loved ones. Be well.
Skip Bayless, The Mad Monk of ESPN [Men's Journal]