Quick story about Skip Bayless:
I was watching his old segment, “1st & Ten,” when they hosted All-NBA center Dwight Howard. Dwight looked ripped, as usual (and was just coming off a disappointing season, as usual). They shot the you-know-what for a bit, until the gigantic man finally declared: “I think I’m the most fit out of all you guys,” then finishes his quip by asking, “Has Skip Bayless ever did any sports?”
A pretty easy lob-shot, right? Dwight popped the metaphorical ball over the net, and all Skip had to do was tap it right back over, in the form of another light-hearted joke. Everything would be cool — funny television banter achieved.
But my boy Skip didn’t see it that way, not at all. He looks stressed only for a moment, a fraction of a second, until he finds his return. You can see Bayless think of something, and when he gets that twinkle in his eye, he smiles like the Grinch hatching a plan to nab presents.
“Well,” he purrs, “at least I don’t look like Tarzan and sometimes play like Jane.”
This is the kind of guy we’re talking about. And now, as he departs ESPN for FS1, Skip leaves behind a past far more speckled than his unaging skin (seriously, the guy looks fantastic for 64). Athletes detest him, other analysts poke holes in his admittedly out-of-left-field theories and his own partner is paid to scream into his face for an hour and a half each weekday at 10 a.m. But the man persists. He wakes up every single day, and it’s hard to be Skip Bayless.
Well, on the other hand, it’s kind of awesome to be Skip Bayless. No real athletic experience to speak of, and no coaching or sports management position whatsoever. Truly an inexperienced person to give the reins of one of ESPN’s most watched daytime shows. But the dude has earned the throne he sits in. He’s won awards for his investigative sports journalism at multiple national newspapers and has spent more than 40 years honing his craft. So he’s more than entitled to enjoy the castle he’s built for himself.
He waltzes into work every morning and gets his makeup done. Maybe he sips a cappuccino. Then the cameras get rolling. And he screams. He screams and yells and huffs and puffs and produces many other loud sounds, largely directed at his partner, Stephen A. Smith. After around 90 minutes of that interaction, the two men smile and walk off the sound stage. I imagine they have a nice lunch together and talk cats.
He then probably goes home, kisses his wife, and falls asleep with that same huge smile, only to repeat the process again tomorrow. That is this man’s job. That is his life — and he made it all himself.
Skip Bayless is the American Dream.
You work hard for years and make something of yourself and then you can host a TV show where two grown men actually argued whether Blake Griffin is black or white — or something like that. He symbolizes the perfect concoction of the American Man: a little smart, a little hard-working and a little lucky.
And we all hate him for it. We hate him for saying how he feels and being who he is, without considering the fact that we can simply change the channel. But for some reason we don’t, as he’s glued us to the television. And that’s the point.
That whole show, the little role he assumed for viewers — of which there are millions and counting – was just an illusion. It was two men acting like they had totally opposite ideologies, and making a show for the kids to laugh at. It was never serious sports analysis. Hell, Smith predicted the wrong Finals winner for six straight years! But we couldn’t appreciate that ever so thinly layered satire to Skip’s act, that made him oh so delicious to watch, and now he’s gone. And we are left to somehow rebuild.
Austin Isaacsohn is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].