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Couch: Skip And Stephen A. Continue To Defy Cancel Culture

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You have got to give credit to Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Six months ago, you’ll recall, Smith said on ESPN that Steve Nash got the Brooklyn Nets coaching job only because of “white privilege.’’ With Twitter blowing up and the nation’s attention squarely on Smith, Fox Sports 1’s Skip Bayless needed to come up with something.

So a week later, he went on to his own bombast about Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who had said that he had suffered from anxiety and depression and had gone to a psychologist over his feeling of living in a world dominated by a pandemic.

So Bayless said on his show Undisputed that he had compassion for clinical depression but as a quarterback, Prescott was in “the ultimate leadership position in sports. Am I right about that? You are commanding an entire franchise. And they’re all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of a football team.

“Because of all that, I don’t have sympathy for him going public with `I got depressed and I suffered depression early in COVID . . .’’’

There was a word for what Smith and Bayless were doing:

Negotiating.

Four years, $32 million. That’s the deal Bayless just got to re-up with FOX. He got it after ESPN reportedly tried to get Smith and Bayless back together for their own show. FOX countered.

And now Bayless makes 60% more to talk about the Super Bowl than Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians got for winning it.

Just so I’m clear: I’m not speaking sarcastically. I am in newfound awe of Smith and Bayless. They say ridiculous things to get attention, and TV networks pay for attention.

So maybe the networks apologize and maybe outraged media types scream for their heads, but they aren’t saying stupid things. I mean, they are saying stupid things, but those stupid things are genius.

There is actually an artform to what they’re doing. It’s not true that they can say whatever they want and be rewarded for it. There is actually a line. And they have to learn to push it, bend it, stand as close to it as possible, hover over it and even lean over the wrong the side of it. . .without actually crossing it.

You do that, you get paid.

Bayless now makes twice as much to talk about LeBron James as Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel gets to coach him.

You have to understand that Smith and Bayless aren’t trying to be relevant or say anything important.

They aren’t trying to make you think, but rather to make you react. So if people get worked up in social media with their massive groups of fake friends, and the media talk about it and Bayless and Smith find a way to stay in their lane. . .Bingo.

Bayless now makes 20-25% more to talk about the World Series than Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts got to win it.

Is Bayless overpaid? Absolutely not. He’s paid what the market called for. He created a market for himself.

I stand in awe.

As I wrote when Smith and Bayless were making news six months ago:

“The job is to talk and talk. And in addition to that, it’s to talk and talk and talk. . .This is just what these talkers do. It’s a dance, and they’re paid to be super-aggressive.’’

The dance is that the closer you get to crossing the line without going over it, the more money you make. If you go over it, you’re out of work. But there is still no actual line drawn anywhere. It takes a sense of things to know where it is.

At the same time, Chicago radio caveman Dan McNeil had tweeted about ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor’s outfit during a Monday Night Football game between Pittsburgh and the New York Giants:

“NFL sideline reporter or a host for the AVN annual awards presentation,’’ McNeil tweeted.

The Adult Video News awards are basically the Academy Awards of porn.

We have not heard from McNeil since. He is no longer on radio.

Talkers cross the line all the time. Chicago’s longtime top sports anchor Mark Giangreco is about to get fired too — if you believe the reporting of Chicago media reporter Robert Feder of the Daily Herald, as I do.

Giangreco, 68, has been off air since late January when he made a joke that news anchor Cheryl Burton could “play the ditzy, combative interior decorator’’ on a DIY fix-it reality show. Burton complained.

We haven’t seen Giangreco since.

I don’t understand how his comment is worse than what Smith or Bayless have said. That’s because I don’t have the senses they do on how to walk the line.

But next time Smith or Bayless say something that sounds nuts and everyone starts calling for them to be fired, I know they’ll be laughing about the whole thing. They will never be canceled.

You want to know how much more money Bayless makes than I do? Let me think here. . .carry the 1, multiply by. . .

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Written by Greg Couch

Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in RollingStone.com and The Guardian.

Couch penned articles and columns for CNN.com/Bleacher Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for FoxSports.com and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.

10 Comments

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  1. i think these huge contracts are about silencing voices using the ‘Golden Handcuffs’ – Bayless and others will do what they are told to keep the money flowing.

    who watches these daytime sports talk garbage shows? they don’t have honest discussions about anything. i know a lot of wealthy unhappy people. money only shelters you from the real world.

  2. Great column! Skip Bayless is pathetic, boring, worthless and it kills braincells just to listen to his idiocy.But you are right Greg that Skip has a singular talent in being able to hover close to the line without actually crossing it and getting cancelled. ……..The part of Skip and Sharp-tongues act that is most pathetic is when Skip pretends to bash Lebron. Sure Skip bashes Lebrons on the court performance but Skip would never really call out Lebron for things that really matter. In fact Skip himself was promoting BLM after George Floyd’s death and Skip himself has promoted the white privilege lies. All Skips bashing of Lebron is just to get into a fake argument with Sharp-tongue for views. Skip is actually on “Team Lebron” and no different from all the other media personalities who will say anything to get paid.

  3. I agree with the posts here I don’t have espn so smith is a non factor for me but Bayless and his bud SS I try to watch occasionally but most of the time I just don’t watch its just too annoying social justice and political stuff. When they finally get around to sports its the same ol same ol cowboys the queen lakers just plain boring but I guess FS1 thinks otherwise.

  4. I haven’t watched First Take or Undisputed in a long time, but I do agree Stephen A. and Bayless have a skill of talking endlessly and being controversial without alienating a significant number of viewers. I am one of the alienated.

  5. …… we may not watch these pukes , but sports departments at USAt and The Washington Post are glued to them everyday because they ‘re ” street ” and they have ” cred ” but most important they believe average Americans listen to this shit.

  6. There isn’t a sports commentator alive I would listen to for 30 seconds. They’re all full of shit. I have my own opinions about things, I’m not going to listen to dickheads like Smith and Bayless or anyone else for that matter.

  7. When these guys first started on First Take and it morphed into a full-time debate show, they use to drive me nuts and make my head hurt. But over the past 5 or 6 years I’ve come to accept them as television characters and don’t actually take their opinions seriously and I actually find them to be very enjoyable and entertaining now. It’s the reason Pardon My Take is so popular, they see what sports media has become and how to make fun of it, and Skip and Stephen A are the poster childs.

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