Skip Bayless may be the most polarizing figure in sports media. For years, his hyperbolic ramblings and petty way of clinging to his opinions make him equal parts frustrating and endearing. Because of this, he has become a fascinating patron saint of hot-take culture, who continues to add fuel for viewers to feed off of.
The rise of Skip Bayless
Bayless, like many sports TV personalities, began in print journalism. According to Fox Sports, he wrote for the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald, Miami Herald, and Los Angeles times. Bayless rose up the ranks to cover some of the biggest teams in those markets.
He began to get attention with guest spots and fill-in duties on the Jim Rome radio show and a common host on Rome’s TV show The Last Word on Fox Sports. Bayless also frequented the popular Fox Sports TV show The Best Damn Sports Show Period. When he signed with ESPN, however, Bayless became larger than life.
Starting with ESPN2’s Cold Pizza in 2004, Bayless was given a daily platform to express his views and larger-than-life personality. Three years later, he landed the show that would define his brand at ESPN. On First Take, Bayless argued with a rotating panel of guests and hosts. But it wasn’t until Stephen A. Smith joined the show that the format really cranked up.
Smith, another loud and vibrant personality, would spar with Bayless. Both were theatrical and passionate as they argued about everything. After leaving ESPN for Fox Sports 1 in 2016, Bayless continued this format with Shannon Sharpe on Undisputed. He still polarizes fans on that show to this day.
While Bayless has his fans, many are not amused by his schtick. His nonstop criticism of LeBron James has drawn ire from fans as James proves him wrong time and time again. Bayless always seems to take the most extreme position regardless of what is happening.
Bayless doesn’t just share his opinions, he shouts them. His opinion on one episode of Undisputed may not be his opinion next week. He contradicts himself and throws athletes under the bus for the smallest reasons.
The TV personality has been called out many times when people thought he went too far to either get a laugh or back up his opinion. The fact that he never seems to turn off his TV personality both helps and hurts his reputation.
Bayless goes too far?
All year, Bayless has criticized Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott over his six-year, $90 million contract. Following a 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Bayless posted a video of him throwing Elliott’s jersey in the trash. Elliott’s mom took issue to the latest Bayless theatric.
In true Bayless fashion, he acknowledged that his reaction was extreme, but stated that he was doing exactly what he would do with any other player. He said he felt bad for making Elliott’s mother feel bad, but he wouldn’t go as far as to apologize.
The feud may have been played out for entertainment value, as Elliott’s mom later posted that she keeps a picture of her son and Bayless in her house.
Bayless isn’t the only person who is paid to debate sports for a living, but nobody does it quite like he and former co-host Smith. People can say they are putting on opinions and speaking for attention, not insight, but there is an audience.
The current mediascape has others just like Bayless and Smith, but they will continue to stand on top (or at the bottom) of everyone and make new friends and enemies in the process.