Readers of this column know how I feel about ESPN2’s First Take program. In my opinion, it is the singular worst program in ESPN’s 35-year history, a manufactured debate show that uses outrage as currency and revolves around 62-year-old Skip Bayless debating and defending sports opinions “against” co-panelist Stephen A. Smith (or straw men). The show seeks social media currency the way a whale seeks a mouthful of plankton — and such bloodlust can expose you when you are not careful.
Last Friday, in the midst of discussing the NFL’s adjudication of Ray Rice, Smith suggested that women should examine their role in provoking domestic violence incidents. As Deadspin pointed out, this is not unfamiliar terrain for Smith, who has become the darling of ESPN management if airtime across multiple platforms were a competition.
While most colleagues stayed silent (Despite ESPN management saying that they encourage civil discourse among colleagues, ESPN staffers including Bill Simmons have previously been censored for talking about First Take), Sports Nation host Michelle Beadle opted to send a series of tweets decrying Smith’s take. Wrote Beadle: “So I was just forced to watch this morning’s First Take. A) I’ll never feel clean again B) I’m now aware that I can provoke my own beating…Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abuser’s. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting.”
Beadle’s response to Smith game-changed what likely would have been just another horrible day at First Take. It set up a narrative (correct or not) of an ESPN employee publicly condemning another ESPN employee, and outlets around the country (including ESPN competitors such as Fox Sports) posted stories on it, from The Washington Post to New York Daily News to the The Atlantic Wire.
Sadly, outside of ESPN2’s Jemele Hill and espnW’s Jane McManus, women talking about the issue on ESPN’s airwaves were non-existent. (That same hit can be given to SI as well.) If the management of First Take was smart — and they have generally been proven the opposite when it comes to these issues — host Cari Champion will be given the freedom to weigh in on Monday’s show about Smith’s comments as well as the Rice decision. Why the producers (or are the show’s hosts running the show behind the scenes?) don’t let a bright woman weigh in on these topics continues to be a mystery of the highest order.
It was truly an awful day in sports media unless you were a fan of schadenfreude. I heard from a number of ex-Bristol staffers including one former on-air ESPN personality who expressed a shared sentiment that First Take (and the management that has enabled the show) have long had the run of the place. Texted the former ESPN-er: “Is it wrong of me to be enjoying the hell out of the Stephen A s—-storm and corresponding executive meltdown in Bristol? Nah.” Richard Deitsch
idontlikevideogames said: I'm Lupa and I Bay-watch movies and review them and sometimes I destroy dancing doll who won't dance to Sexual Chocolate (I'm terrible at these)
Why Sports Punditry Shows should have a disclaimer saying “FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY”
I like to think Jemele Hill just used a dartboard and put teams names on random parts and just threw the darts and that made the list. Because I can’t imagine in what universe anyone would rank Golden State as a bigger landing spot than the Knicks.