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OutKick founder Clay Travis recently joined “OutKick 360” and referred to the Internet as a “Blame Factory.” It’s a good analogy but I think it’s more accurate to refer to it as a “Blame Distribution Center.” Factories create things. Distribution Centers assign things to various people and locations. The internet and social media does a great job of assigning blame in the wake of a tragic event even if there’s no one to blame. An example is what took place on Monday Night in the wake of Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin suffering cardiac arrest on the field. It was a tragic medical episode that was impossible to fully explain away in the moment. Here was a professional athlete in their athletic prime collapsing from a heart attack after a routine tackle. Why? How? We all had these questions. It made people emotional. It made people angry. That anger and emotion got “distributed” to Skip Bayless after he posted the following tweet.
The tweet isn’t all that bad. He posed a question that most everyone watching the game asked themselves at some point while watching the terrible scene unfold in Cincinnati. The timing of the tweet was bad. Really bad. That mixed with Bayless’s 3.2 million twitter followers created an immediate tidal wave of anger directed at a man that’s made a career and a lot of money creating sports controversy.
The fallout was so swift that Bayless backpedaled in a second tweet one hour after posting the one that had all of Twitter in an uproar. He admitted the next day on his FS1 show “Undisputed” that a boss at FOX told him he needed to clarify what he meant in his first tweet. But a second thing happened on Tuesday’s show that had people talking even more: Shannon Sharpe didn’t show up to work. The apparent divide between the co-hosts has been widely reported and evident based on some recent on-air blow-ups including a verbal bombardment over Tom Brady’s greatness on Dec. 12.
Then it really hit the fan yesterday morning when Shannon Sharpe attempted to open the show with a monologue about his absence and the Damar Hamlin’s situation before being interrupted by Bayless after Sharpe mentioned his belief that Bayless should have taken his tweet down.
I’m not an expert on much but as someone that’s hosted a show with either one or two co-hosts for the last 16 years, I am qualified to weigh in on what happened and what should have happened in this instance. Let me start by responding to the people that claim management should have stepped in and done something or been better organized pre-show. That’s bologna. I don’t know the management/producer set-up on this show or what was said or not said before the show. I can tell you that working in media, I’ve encountered plenty of executives that don’t know what they don’t know. It’s on the on-air talent to figure out how to be on-air talent and conduct a show. There’s no level of hand holding that would help in this situation. Especially for two men that have combined to put in a lot of years in the sports debate TV show format. Executives should hire talent and let them be talent. Talent shouldn’t go to an executive and explain to them how their executive suite should operate and vice versa. This is a situation that should be handled by the men on the show and no one else. With that out of the way, here’s 4 main points I want to make about what went down in this clip.
1) Sharpe should have admitted reason for missing Tuesday’s show
Saying you don’t want to get into “speculation and conjecture” on why you missed a show is not the way to start your monologue. If you were too emotional after the Hamlin incident and didn’t want to go on-air, say it. If you were angry with Bayless about his tweet and didn’t want to go on a show you knew would turn into one about the tweet, say it. It sounded like Sharpe may have been headed in that direction before being cut-off by Bayless. Regardless of the reason, Sharpe was wrong to miss the show in the first place. Everyone was upset watching Hamlin motionless on the field in Cincinnati. But it’s our job as sports media members to DO OUR JOBS. You have to show up for uncomfortable shows whether you are angry with your co-host or the national storyline subject matter is disturbing. Sharpe should have plainly stated why he took the previous day off and moved forward.
2) Bayless was wrong to cut him off
There was no need for Bayless to jump in when he did. Especially considering this was clearly an opening statement that was pre-planned and requested by Sharpe. If you disagreed with him for saying you should have taken the tweet down, you had plenty of time to debate that point after letting your co-host finish his point. It sounded like Sharpe was getting ready to soften his point about the tweet and Bayless before Bayless interrupted him. It’s bad show etiquette and bad form from Bayless.
3) Bayless claimed no one in house had a problem with his tweet
Huh? Maybe this is semantics but on the previous day’s show he admitted that one of his bosses reached out asking him to clarify his tweet because of the negative backlash surrounding it. He may be claiming they didn’t have a problem with the tweet itself but they did have a problem with the reaction so someone made a move to get Bayless to deflect some of the negativity. Either way, it was a strange claim to make in the moment.
4) It made for compelling TV
Whatever missteps may have been made to lead us to the point of the open to yesterday’s show ultimately may not matter because it was a compelling TV moment. This fact leads some to believe this was all a work and not real. I don’t buy that theory. I think we all witnessed a very human moment between two guys that are around each other all the time at work and hold jobs where their one job is to try to defeat the other in a debate. It would be difficult to not allow that invade your psyche eventually even if you were the most calm and amenable personality on the planet. It’s especially difficult to separate the work from the personal if you are as strong willed and competitive as Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe.
What happened on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will be something we remember and talk about in sports media circles but in no way should derail the show. Could everything have been handled better? Yes. As a consumer of media, am I happy that it worked out the way it did leading to that clip? Also, yes.
And none of this has to be some death knell for a show or a working relationship. As evidenced by the two hosts showing a united front to start Thursday’s show.
See there is a way for all of us to just get along.
Chad Withrow is co-host of “OutKick 360” which can be seen and heard weekdays from 3-6pm ET across the OutKick digital and radio Networks.