Many talents at ESPN want to work alongside Stephen A. Smith. He is one of the biggest draws in sports media and a daily headline generator. When personalities sit next to Smith, their public profile increases. Yet that’s where the perks end.
Stephen A. Smith is condescending, an egomaniac, a jerk, and a nightmarish teammate. Just ask Max Kellerman, who witnessed all four of those traits daily for five years. As OutKick first reported and Smith later admitted, Stephen A. Smith and his puppet, ESPN SVP Dave Roberts, kicked Kellerman off First Take. Smith is rather proud of his accomplishment, bragging about it on The Breakfast Club and other radio shows.
Even though ESPN has demoted Kellerman, Smith despises his former co-host so much that he can’t let it go. You’d think, from the outside, that ESPN wouldn’t appreciate Smith openly celebrating Kellerman’s removal. Instead, because of Dave Roberts, ESPN is promoting Smith’s comments on its PR page. During an in-house feature about First Take‘s new format, Smith kicked Kellerman once again:
“I haven’t been this excited to do First Take in years,” Smith said.
He means three years, to be exact. Smith noted two weeks ago that he asked his bosses to boot Kellerman from the show in the summer of 2019, 2020, and again this year.
Smith didn’t specify the last time First Take excited him. However, put me down for Spring 2016, Skip Bayless’ final season on the show.
Smith says with the change, First Take’s future is now “limitless.” Translation: In Smith’s mind, Kellerman limited the show.
Smith could have easily promoted and shown his excitement about the program’s new format without belittling Kellerman. Try, “I’m thrilled with the First Take’s future” instead of reiterating for the third time you don’t like your former co-host. It’s as though Smith wants everyone to remember just how much he disapproves of Kellerman and how happy he is that he’s gone.
Of course he is. What a guy.
After three weeks without Kellerman, First Take has not improved. The show is now up and down, then down and up again. Smith has chemistry with a few guests: Michael Irvin, Dan Orlovsky, Damien Woody, and Tim Tebow. However, he is awkward and boring when opposite the others: Keyshawn Johnson, Bart Scott, Kim Martin, and Ryan Clark. Smith is likely fine with the show’s inconsistency because it’s now all about him, and he can swiftly remove anyone he likes. In other words, Dave Roberts will agree to any and all of his demands.
I predict that the current rotation does not last through the football season. After that, some talents will stay, others will go. What’s more, Smith will let us know by his facial expressions, comments on New York radio, and features with GQ whom he likes and whom he feels is another Max Kellerman.
At least the show that pays for most of Stephen A. Smith’s $12 million a year contract excites him once again. I had worried the grueling gig had become too much for him.