The thing is, I know I’m giving Skip Bayless exactly what he wants by writing this. By even considering writing it. Bayless doesn’t exist to be right or wrong. He’s just there to emit. He’s a smokestack. That’s all. Bayless has made his career by making everything an argument. It doesn’t matter if it defies all logic, physics, ethics. Bayless is just there to run counter to something, so he can yell, get yelled at, and raise the volume to the point where everyone has to notice.
I swear there was a time, when he was just a newspaper columnist in Dallas and Chicago, where he was reasonable. But I fully admit I may have hallucinated that. Having said that, as an intern at a sports radio station here in Chicago many years ago, I did have to restrain a White Sox fan from attacking him while he co-hosted a show, so maybe this has always been him.
Then again, getting a White Sox fan that worked up is about as challenging as taking a shit.
I won’t say Bayless has been harmless, because this kind of “debate” or delivery of news — not just sports — has mutated, if not ruined, reporting in all fields. Now everything has to be disputed instead of just being left alone as reported. Every bit of news now exists to be countered, to be yelled at, to take a side.
Fuck, this is what Fox News does as an entity. I don’t know if Bayless started this, but he’s certainly vaulted this style of TV to bigger and more disgusting heights. Which is how, now, we have a legion of dangerous and deranged people challenging the most basic principles simply because everything has to be challenged and debated, driving the country straight into a rest-stop toilet in the hills.
But Bayless, generally, hasn’t directly hurt people. Maybe he has, I try not to pay attention. He’s attacked athletes for all sorts of reasons, a lot of them not fair, but I suppose they knew it was part of the deal of being a professional athlete, even if it’s egregiously unfair. Bayless has been a blowhard who never has to answer for anything, but I suppose he has resisted getting too personal most of the time.
This, however, is firing a shot at more than just the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, a job that Bayelss has always viewed as a combination of president and pope.
Did Bayless know it was World Suicide Prevention Day? It doesn’t matter, but we can’t rule it out, given that he only exists to draw attention to himself. Dropping his drivel on a day like this could only increase the blowback it generated.
What’s obvious is Bayless has no idea what he’s talking about, and he rarely does, and that’s never been his point. The QB of the Dallas Cowboys said something, and Bayless is still under the impression that the Cowboys are still front and center in the football world, so it must be countered. Refuted. Criticized. Dak Prescott could have said anything and Bayless would have tied it to Prescott’s inability to lead a team, even if he had said his bike got a flat tire and he didn’t have a spare on hand to replace it.
But Bayless puts playing quarterback above the feelings and struggles of Prescott, personally, and essentially everyone else’s, too. You don’t need me to tell you that in a time where we are incrementally more welcoming to athletes being open about their depression and mental struggles, this is the kind of shit that keeps them from doing so.
And it takes everyone who struggles with depression and loss right down with them.
It’s hypocritical to the hilt, of course, because if Prescott hadn’t been public with what he’s going through, and then proceeded to have a wonky season with only whispers about what’s going on, Bayless would hop on his stool and decry, from his asshole pulpit, that Prescott hadn’t been honest with Cowboys fans, and likening his struggles on the field to the lives of fans. It would have been an automatic response.
Even for Bayless, this is particularly heartless, to dismiss Prescott’s depression over losing a parent and sibling to depression and suicide in a ridiculously small time span. And to dismiss it because of what it might mean to his ability to play football.
It’s Neanderthal machismo that we’re trying to move on from, and yet can’t because of Bayless and his ilk’s constant peddling of it. And it’s that complete shunting of vulnerability in favor of a sprint to faux-masculinity that pervades pretty much every problem we have. Don’t tell me your local shit-kicking hilljack screaming about wearing a mask isn’t a prime example of this, nor the one toting a gun around simply because it was suggested he consider someone else’s experience or feelings (especially if it’s the feelings of a Black person).
As someone who’s gone through very similar circumstances as Prescott, I simply will not accept that Bayless can use that to forward an agenda that merely exists to be an agenda, to be noise, to be a topic of debate. Most other things he bleats and wails about are not core to who people are, or how they go about their lives, even if they get there indirectly. This one is. Bayless does not get to use Prescott’s, or mine, or anyone’s pain simply to blech up more “smoke.” Because as he knows, it won’t stop there, and at some point all of us will feel like we have to justify our depression, our pain, our feelings, our struggles. And we don’t. They are the human condition. This is simply too weighty for Bayless to toss around like a fucking frisbee. Our conditions, struggles, pain is so overarching our ability to do our jobs that they shouldn’t even be in the conversation together. They shouldn’t be in the same ballpark, not even the same fucking sport.
Depression is not a topic to be debated. Someone’s pain doesn’t have two sides.
And if he does feel he can be so callous about things so important and so heavy, simply to make noise, he can go get eaten by half a dozen starving badgers. Depression, grief, pain are not merely obstacles for athletes to overcome, and minor ones at that in Bayless’s world. They are not on par with an inability to read a zone-blitz or zip on an out-pattern. No one should stand for him minimizing them so.
But Fox won’t fire Bayless. It’d be an upset if he had to even apologize. After all, he got what he and his bosses wanted.