Thursday afternoon, Richard Sherman of the Seahawks blasted Skip Bayless on ESPN's traveshamockery that is First Take. The clip traveled around the blogosphere as everyone gave an 'atta boy to Sherman for doing what they only wish they could do themselves - stick it to Skip Bayless. Let's take a look, shall we?
While yes, that clip is glorious... it's also a bit depressing. Sherman, as counter-intuitive as it seems, is playing right into Bayless' hands by stooping to his level. This kind of confrontation is what this blood sucking leach of a television program lives for. First Take and Bayless live and die by the mantra that any publicity is good publicity, and nothing brings publicity like a very public slap fight with a prominent athlete. It's why Bayless "challenges" people to come debate him on First Take, but the show remains cowardly silent when truly put to the test.
I've heard the arguments before. Giving Bayless and First Take attention, even warning readers in big red flashing lights "DO NOT WATCH THIS GARBAGE THAT IS THE DESTRUCTION OF ESPN'S SOUL," is exactly what the show wants. I'm no trained professional, but I think the point of any media observer or writer is to give an opinion on what's good television and what's not so you (the reader) can be as informed as possible and ultimately make that decision for yourself.
If "attention" and "publicity" is what First Take is after, it should expose the warped reality and sadomasochistic nature of a show where an NFL star calling one of its co-hosts "ignorant, pompous, and egotistical" is exactly what it wants.
It's one thing for this site, or Richard Deitsch or John Koblin, or Neil Best or Richard Sandomir to address the issues of First Take and the damage it does to ESPN's brand. It's quite another when it comes from the most influential voice at ESPN - Bill Simmons. Simmons sent three tweets about First Take, starting in the "people should just change the channel" camp, but then moving towards an honest opinion that is surely held by many within with Bristol.
First Take is hurting ESPN.
It's amazing to me that people get so worked up about First Take. Who cares? Just don't watch it. There are like 800 TV channels.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 8, 2013
But what bothers me about the reaction to that segment is people saying Richard Sherman "won." Nobody won. Everyone lost. Including ESPN.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 8, 2013
It's quite the statement for Simmons to publicly denounce First Take. You never see any ESPNer openly criticize another ESPNer, especially in the wake of the dirty laundry aired in the ESPN book. Protecting the four letters is Bristol's first priority. If the abomination of Sherman vs Bayless causes Bill Simmons, ESPN's highest profile and most powerful public figure, to speak out and break Bristol's fourth wall... First Take has real problems both inside and outside Bristol.
When asked about First Take, the President of ESPN, a multi-billion dollar company several times over, can offer no real defense of the program. John Skipper can only point to their ratings and say "we're not monolithic" as if that excuses the awful embarrassment and history of race-baiting, childish name calling, and lowest common denominatoring of the sports culture. What does that say about ESPN? Would John Skipper give the green light to air bikini jello wrestling or getting a piece of the Kardashians for ratings because ESPN isn't "monolithic?" It's ok for just one ESPN show to talk about "cornball brothers" and "Bosh Spice" and the like because hey, ESPN's not monolithic?
Simmons' voice is important because, in spite of both positive and negative criticism that has been tossed away, he's been involved in some of ESPN's highest quality material. 30 for 30 is a testament to the best of what the network is capable of with resources and creativity that can't be matched. Grantland has carved its own unique niche and houses talented writers like Brian Phillips and Wesley Morris. His podcasts, columns, and tweets reach millions.
Nevertheless, it's not the criticism of First Take from Simmons that should concern the suits at ESPN the most. It's the criticism of Simmons' followers. It's tweets like this, this, this, and this that not only support his tweets about First Take, but go on to bemoan the downward direction of ESPN's overall quality of programming. You don't just see it at First Take anymore, you see SportsCenter now asking meaningless, worthless "debate polls" like who is the greatest center of all-time from Willie Mays to Wayne Gretzky and Wilt Chamberlain. That evolution, as I've always maintained, is the biggest problem with "Embrace Debate." It's bled through to ESPN's other programming, and the negative perceptions of ESPN's brand are now bleeding into what should be ESPN's most loyal and core fanbase - followers of Bill Simmons.
Could Bill Simmons' public criticism be the wake up call that ESPN executives need to shut down First Take in its current form? If he has the power ascribed to him, the answer may finally be yes.
"Giving Bayless and First Take attention, even warning readers in big red flashing lights "DO NOT WATCH THIS GARBAGE THAT IS THE DESTRUCTION OF ESPN'S SOUL," is exactly what the show wants." You mean, like what this site does all the time?
Disagree that "that clip is glorious." http://aldland.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/online-sports-media-critics-when-colin-cowherd-starts-to-make-sense-its-time-to-reevaluate-your-approach/ Leaves no one looking good.
Sherman acted like the punk from Compton he is. Bayless conducted himself with class. But by all means, all you Bayless haters keep drinking that Haterade. Hope it kills you.
women announcers of men's sports is un-listenable. Period. Political correctness run-amok, marxist, post modernist garbage being sold as a delicacy!! MUTE BUTTON.
@thatgirlondeck Also acceptable as a title would have been "MMMmmmmmmm-HMMMMMMM."
It's not going to change much, if anything at all, mainly because ESPN knows they're getting clicks, they're getting buzz, and they're getting ratings, which all means revenue. In their eyes, the Richard Sherman thing was the best thing that could happen to them because it means people are talking. I hate that mentality b/c it means things are here to stay...otherwise it would've changed when Mark Cuban called them out. It's the state of journalism; buzz > credibility nowadays. Same thing is happening at the cable news networks.
What I do not understand is why Bayless catches all the flack for this show. Screaming A. Smith is much more despicable and on most unlucky days he can be heard screaming nonsensical prattle on ESPN2 and Sports Center.
I have watched the show for years, dating back to the 1st and 10 days when Woody Paige was a regular. The problem isn't just the format, rather also the personalities involved. Cari Champion must be asking herself what in the hell she was thinking, leaving the Tennis Channel as a respected reporter to become the ringmaster over this circus. Stephen A is a damn good reporter and writer. It's sad to see him lower his standards to become part of this. As for Bayless, he has evolved from a pretty good sportswriter into a industry wide joke. He seems to have convinced himself that he matters. The fact is that his opinions are so obviously motivated by his desire to be noticed, that he has lost all credibility as a writer.
@awfulannouncing "(To Skip) In my 24 years of life....I'm better than you." Sherm's the man, wish he was on my team!
@awfulannouncing I used to like the show before they turned it into a platform for Bayless and Smith.
@awfulannouncing seems like your trying to stir the pot yourself. Not everyone puts Simmons on a pedestal.He's not based in any ways, right?
@awfulannouncing agree with your principle that media critics should be relentless in pointing out when media sucks.
@awfulannouncing Except for games and 30\/30,ESPN is mostly a clown network.They don't care. At the first drop in earnings, Disney will care.
@EllisDan haha people are way too dramatic its not even that bad...and if they did end it I'd cry because my mornings would be ruined haha
%s First Take is what it is: I highly controversial opinion show. Regardless of your %s opinion, %s ...
@awfulannouncing Great article
@awfulannouncing as long as there are people dumb enough to watch skip and the other clown on first take nothing will change.
In that clip, other than the very beginning, Stephen A. Smith is silent for over 2 minutes. That has to be a Guiness World Record.
I dont watch First Take and I really dont like Bayless just from what I've heard about him. If I was in charge, I would axe First Take and cut back on the Sportscenters. Now, its too the point where there asking dumb questions or dumb poll questions. That to me, is filler. Give the fans highlights and thats it. All these debate shows they have bring nothing to the table because theres too many of them.
ESPN, especially in March, does a hell of a job with the conference tourneys. Thats ESPN at there apex. They should focus and stick to what they know best which is college basketball during this time of year.
Unless ESPN is showing a live sporting event, the rest of their programming is "Entertainment Tonight" or ""TMZ" for sports fans. It's braindead hype that appeals to people with limited intellect. It should all be boycotted and ignored.
It's hard for me to determine who I dislike more. Skip or this chatterbox football player. Perhaps Sherman is auditioning for a role in Embrace the Debate when his career comes to a close.
I DVR Mike&Mike every day and my receiver leaves the channel on ESPN2 afterward... I think I'm going to start recording some other random program at 10AM just so the channel changes, so it doesn't look like I'm supporting that POS... it's only a matter of time before ESPN collapses though... especially now that each major sport has its own channel, there's getting to be less and less of a purpose to tune in... hey, btw, if the playoffs started today, are the Lakers in the playoffs yet? I haven't seen what Kobe tweeted in the last 12 hours...
the fact that idiotic "golf boys" crap has been on sportscenter for multiple days makes First Take look down right Cronkiteian
Yes writing a book stating that Troy Aikman is gay gained him great respect as a journalist.....give me a break he's a dbag who just says whatever he can to get a reaction from people. And oh saying Tim Tebow being the greatest thing in the world really got him far too. Tebow may not play in the NFL again.
Heard the most ridiculous question on Sportscenter, if the Miami Heat played the Chicago Black hawks in their respective sports, who'd win?
This is all about ratings, ratings, ratings. Let's say First Take goes away tomorrow. Do they have anything else that will get more viewers? Even if First Take's ratings come from the lowest common denominator of sports fan. Disney's a publicly traded company....their first obligation is to their shareholders, not so much the sensibilities of people like us. ESPN will follow the money.
Honestly I doubt this changes anything. They pass Simmons opinion off as one opinion and not that of the larger audience. Lets face the suits at ESPN have their heads buried in the sand far enough they are not going to hear anything. It's a shame too because this would be the wakeup call. Whats even more a shame is that NBCSN and CBS network aren't yet strong enough to take advantage of this and that Fox Sports 1 isn't launching until August which seems like light years away. The only way ESPN listens is when there is real competition at their door step.
@scoknuts Ironically, Simmons tweeted out the link to the clip to his many, many followers. That doesn't seem like genuine disgust. He's also very close with the producer of 'First Take'. This is an interesting response out of him to me.
That was stupid on Sherman's part. He could snap his leg in half game one next year and be done after two years. Meanwhile Skip Bayless may be a tool, but he has been among the best and most well known sports writers in the country since before Sherman was born. He will be after Sherman moves on from playing football.