Skip Bayless’s new show on FS1, the two-and-a-half-hour-long Second Take, just wrapped up its debut, and you’ll be shocked to learn not only that he and cohost Shannon Sharpe discussed Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, and the Cowboys in-depth, but that Bayless challenged Sharpe to bring stronger takes multiple times. In case you wondered whether Skip truly would just resume peddling the same old shit, rest assured: He will.
In the middle of the show came a very conveniently-timed interview Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch conducted with Troy Aikman, who has been a Fox broadcaster for longer than he played in the NFL. Aikman and Bayless famously tangled 20 years ago, when Bayless was a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and wrote a book which, among other things, gave credence to rumors that Aikman was gay, which Aikman has always denied.
Anyway, here is the money quote from the interview:
“To say I’m disappointed in the hiring of Skip Bayless would be an enormous understatement,” Aikman said. “Clearly, [Fox Sports president of national networks] Jamie Horowitz and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to building a successful organization. I believe success is achieved by acquiring and developing talented, respected and credible individuals, none of which applies to Skip Bayless.”
Damn, look at the fire Aikman is raining down on a colleague! Troy Aikman DISEMBOWELS Skip Bayless! Fox-on-Fox crime!
But then, a bit later in the interview, we get to this:
Aikman has a number of years left on his Fox Sports contract (and he opted to stay with Fox after Bayless was signed, which is a point Bayless loyalists would make) ...
And that is how you know the entire thing is a work.
Fox Sports isn’t ESPN, where employees are severely reprimanded for criticizing colleagues. Fox Sports employees are free to talk politics on Twitter, to get in the mud and wrestle with naysayers, and to float despicable conspiracy theories. Under Jamie Horowitz, Fox Sports’s strategy has been to hire the worst of ESPN’s yakkers and give them free rein to promulgate their shitty, bad takes, to generate as much controversy as possible. This strategy assumes that all publicity is good publicity, especially if it distracts from the network’s middling ratings.
Aikman and Bayless are just two of 21st Century Fox’s over 20,000 employees. Bayless goes into work early Monday through Friday to marinate his spicy meatballs, and Aikman appears on Fox on NFL Sundays. They will have just as much contact as they did when Bayless worked for ESPN. They never have to interact, they work with completely different sets of people, and they’re each paid millions of dollars.
There is no question that Jamie Horowitz would love Bayless and Aikman to yell at each other in public at until the end of time. The fact that there is actual animosity between them just makes the work that much more convincing.