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:
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. . .