Skip to main content

Sportscasting | Pure Sports

In 2023, sports media is the land of hot takes. The talking head screaming the loudest with the more outrageous opinion is the one who gets the most attention. While you can trace some of this as far back as Mike and the Mad Dog, it was Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless on First Take who took it to a whole different level. On Friday, Dan Le Batard told Smith to his face he hates what he’s created, but in true Stephen A fashion, he didn’t back down.

Dan Le Batard told Stephen A Smith, ‘I hate what you two have done to sports television’

Stephen A Smith and Dan Le Batard are two of the biggest, most influential, and most polarizing sports media personalities in the world in 2023 (more on that below).

And when Smith made an appearance on Le Batard’s South Beach Sessions for a deep-dive conversation, the sparks flew.

Le Batard told Smith, “I hate what you two have done to sports television,” referencing Smith and Skip Bayless’ time on the seminal First Take show together. The talk show spawned what seems like a thousand imitators, all trying to deliver the hottest take in a two-minute segment.

Never one to back down from a fight, Smith fired back, “You can say that all you want to. I would say, who the hell are you to sit up there and say, ‘me and him.’ What about you? Where the hell were you? Living under a rock? Teaching at Miami U? You were a part of it, too. You ain’t innocent!”

“I’m talking about all the imitators you have berthed,” Le Batard clarified, backing down a bit. “They’re all over the place thinking — without the journalism credentials — that the point of all this is to turn it into an argument on television.”

Stephen A Smith took “umbrage” to that as well, giving his resume and saying the same journalistic ethics that governed his sports writing applies to his talking on TV. However, Le Batard disagreed, noting, “It’s not ignoring [journalistic ethics]. It’s that they shrink in the face of the need for the argument for entertainment.”

The argument continued for a few minutes, and in true sports talk fashion, neither side backed down, and nothing was truly resolved.

Smith and Le Batard are two of the most influential voices in sports media

Stephen A Smith, Dan Le Batard
(L-R) Stephen A Smith, Dan Le Batard | Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Stephen A. Smith Says His $12 Million Salary Makes Him Underpaid Compared to Unnamed ‘White Colleagues’

Over the last 20 years, Stephen A Smith and Dan Le Batard have been two of the most prominent voices in sports media.

Le Batard, a former Miami Herald columnist, became a regular fill-in on Pardon the Interruption and then got his own late afternoon ESPN talk show, Highly Questionable. He now hosts a daily sports talk show, the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz — as well as several spin-offs — on his Meadowlark Media platform that he runs with former ESPN president John Skipper.

Meanwhile, Stephen A. Smith parlayed his writing at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer into multiple ESPN Radio talk shows and a gig on the ESPN morning show First Take.

It’s that job that changed the tenor of sports debate in the U.S., putting a premium on “the argument,” as Le Batard says, as opposed to a nuanced discussion, which Le Batard seems to think is more what he did with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on PTI.

Le Batard even brought up that Smith has co-host Max Kellerman replaced (between Skip Bayless leaving and hot-take godfather Chris “Mad Dog” Russo coming in) because Kellerman was too nuanced and thoughtful.

While there is no correct answer to this debate, there is truth on both sides. Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless did change the way we talk about sports on TV, but Le Batard and his brand of discourse may be slightly elevated, but it’s not all that different.