"I hate him more than any person in the world."
– Charles Barkley on Skip Bayless
American sports fans love to be critical of commentators, announcers and analysts. We all believe we can somehow talk about the current game better than the dressed up guy on the screen. While every analyst gets picked on to some degree (Joe Buck, Matt Millen, Phil Sims), Skip Bayless of ESPN’s First Take is perhaps the most criticized in all of America, by fans and professionals alike. He has been accused of shock journalism, racism and being grossly underqualified to talk about sports on a national platform like ESPN.
It’s not a popular stance, but I’m here to disprove these claims.
There is a general feel in the sports blogging world that Skip is a lunatic who doesn’t deserve to be on one of ESPN’s most popular programs discussing hot topics every morning. I get that. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. TheStartingFive.net conducted a lengthy interview with him in 2009 about various topics, one of them being his background and how he got to his current status.
After graduating from Vanderbilt, Bayless began his career low on the Miami Herald totem pole but quickly rose up the ranks until the Los Angeles Times hired him. There, while covering various Los Angeles teams, he started to develop a reputation as a top-flight writer and was eventually recruited by the Dallas Morning News where his career took off.
While at the Morning News, Skip won the “Texas Sportswriter of Year” award three times and developed a reputation as the fearless beat reporter for the Dallas Cowboys. He went on a couple short stints at the Dallas Times Herald, Chicago Tribune and San Jose Mercury Tribune until he was hired full-time at ESPN in 2004.
So, as you can see by the amount of facts I just spewed out, Bayless has been there and done that. He’s an accomplished journalist who has worked hard to get where he is and clearly isn’t a lunatic. I mean, how can you win Texas Sportswriter of the Year three times and not know what you’re talking about?
Another thing people accuse Bayless of is “shock journalism,” where the journalist makes ridiculous claims in order to boost internet page views or TV ratings.
The most common thing people point to is Skip’s take on LeBron James. Skip routinely says on First Take that LeBron went to Miami so “Dwyane Wade could win him a ring” because LeBron can’t do it as his team’s leader. He also states often that LeBron has no “clutch gene” and can’t finish games (namely playoff games) like say Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.
Now that you’re hearing this without Bayless yelling about it on television, don’t his claims have some merit? LeBron has yet to win a ring, and he clearly deferred to Dwyane Wade when it was crunch time in the 2011 NBA Finals. Seems like evidence to me.
Skip’s problem is that sometimes he’s “too passionate” on television and that can shove viewers the wrong way, often getting to the point where the viewer isn’t even listening to the point he’s trying to get across anymore. Bayless calls himself a “sports nut,” and sometimes that can go too far.
The last point critics drive home about Bayless is that he is a racist.
Wow, that’s quite the statement to make. People get this idea because 90% of the time he is debating sports with a black columnist/analyst and he’s from Oklahoma. That’s it.
Saying Skip Bayless is a racist is totally false. Why does he always have a black debate partner? “a day rarely passes without a racial component to a sports issue, and our show never shies away from tackling the most controversial of these issues. It is obviously impossible to have a credible, healthy discussion or debate without both sides represented. Sometimes I’ll defend the Black perspective — see Barry Bonds — and sometimes a Black debater will defend the White perspective — as happened recently with Stephen Bardo taking up for Michael Phelps and me continuing to criticize him as a role-model fraud.”
Saying Bayless has a prejudice against black people is totally irresponsible and false. It’s not even worth discussing anymore.
Whatever opinion you have of Skip Bayless, just know that he’s not a knucklehead. He knows his stuff and has experience, doesn’t use “shock journalism,” and he is not a racist. Some people frown on him because they believe he makes a bunch of ludicrous statements. The reality is that he speaks the truth, and sometimes that’s not what we always want to hear.
Read TheStartingFive.net’s full interview of Skip Bayless here.
--Nathan Parsons (@NathanParsons98)