We all remember where we were and what we were doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Skip Bayless, as is his habit, even remembers things that seemingly didn't actually happen. The First Take embrace debate train rolled through Dealey Plaza on Friday and argued over whether the NFL should have canceled the games following President Kennedy's assassination. As a whole, the segment is ... whatever, but there's an interesting anecdote from Bayless in there that appears to just not be true.
Bayless says he remembers coming home from church that Sunday morning, and hearing of Lee Harvey Oswald's murder on his way home. He was a young, shaken Skip, and happy to have the distraction and comfort of football.
I appreciated the fact that I could go home ... and turn on the Dallas Cowboys game at the Cleveland Browns, it just allowed me to turn off my young mind. ... Everybody grieves differently, but there are times, even after 9/11, we're all shook up on different levels, but there are just times when you need to turn your mind off, and just sit and stare at a football game.
That's a perfectly reasonable opinion. Maybe you agree with it, maybe you disagree with it. It doesn't really matter, though, because it is premised on events that almost certainly didn't happen. From that quote it sounds like Bayless went home from church that Sunday, and watched the Cowboys play the Browns. That game, though, was not televised. In fact—famously!—no NFL games that weekend were televised.
Take this, for example, from a front page story from the Nov. 24, 1963, edition of the New York Times:
All seven National Football League games will be played today, but none will be televised. ... The decision of the Columbia Broadcasting System, which holds the rights to all N.F.L. games, the American Broadcasting Company, the other league's television network, to suspend all entertainment programs for an indefinite period wiped pro football from the nation's TV screens today.
OK, maybe the "just sit and stare at a football game" part of Skip's riff was a reference to his feelings about 9/11, and the indelible image etched in his memory involves listening to the Cowboys play the Browns in a game offering a respite from the violent horrors being visited on America? Well, probably not. In the Nov. 25, 1963, Dallas Morning News, columnist Bud Shrake mentioned that the radio broadcast was "disrupted by the shooting of Oswald," and one writer remembers things this way:
Those waiting to hear the broadcast of the Dallas Cowboys-Cleveland Browns clash on Sunday instead heard extended coverage of Jack Ruby gunning down the suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
It's at least possible that there was some kind of local broadcast wherever Bayless happened to be, and that whoever was running it decided not to cut in to a game that pretty much everyone other than Pete Rozelle thought should have been canceled for live coverage of the murder of JFK's killer, and that Bayless spent three blissful hours that afternoon getting his mind off his and the country's woes. It seems rather more likely that this didn't happen, and that Skip Bayless just sat there the other day with his softest, most earnest voice and completely fabricated a childhood memory to help him win what was, even by his standards, a ridiculous argument to be having in the first place.