Sometime a few years ago, Skip Bayless left ESPN and took a bunch a money to appear on FS1's new First Take style morning show. At the time, Skip was public enemy number one for non-idiotic sports fans: a dude on TV every morning, peddling nonsense and bad faith character arguments, talking up the Dallas Cowboys for no reason, slamming LeBron James day after day, just because he knew it turned the water-wheel. He was a dickhead local columnist blown up like a leathery Macy’s balloon parading through the consciousness of the sports conversation.
FOX was plainly looking to get into the Skip game because they were looking to hire every traditionalist sports jagoff available to them in pursuit of a new model: FOX News, but for Sports. While ESPN was tossing their shittier elements out and giving more airtime to women and people of color, FOX figured there was a market opportunity to go in the opposite direction.
Just as serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes and his band of shitheads had done for politics, exploiting and manipulating an audience that felt abandoned by the CNNs of the world, FOX Sports would collect the dog whistling dregs of the earth—Colin Cowherd, Whitlock, Clay Travis and the like—and Skip would be their leader, the tip of the spear in the nationwide effort to Make Sports Great Again.
While everyone else has basically done what was presumed of them, Skip has been… more unpredictable, working in the shadows at FOX. He must, on some level, understand that there is money to be made here, a chance to become the irritable right’s siren signal in sports land, but instead he has mostly stuck to sports, and even gone out of his way to compliment Colin Kaepernick on multiple occasions.
It is a sign of almost perverse integrity on his part. Skip doesn’t NEED modern racism and Trump to be a primo dickhead on television: he has sports, baby, and their arcane laws of honor can fill all the column inches and TV shouting matches in the universe. He looks at the other dudes on his networks, pounding themselves into a box to impress anyone who changed the channel in disgust by, like, Bomani Jones and he rolled his fucking eyes and went back to peddling mostly benign sports takes that make very little sense.
Earlier this week or so, Skip posted this, promoting a segment on his show that I didn’t watch because I mostly have better things to do with my time. But I came across the tweet while flipping through, and for just a second, I was hit with a wave of beautiful and pure nostalgia for the recent past.
There was a time, not so recently, when the stupidest thing you could see on a television was Skip crowing to his then shouting partner, Stephen A. Smith, about Tebow on his fucking morning show. It was a more innocent era, when stupid shit was confined to little spaces gawked at, mock retweeted, and moved on from.
Skip’s quest to get Tebow back in the NFL was insane and stupid and clearly engineered to get attention, but it was also just a dude, on TV, talking about a fucking football player. It was stakesless. It was Guy Fieri or Kardashian nonsense, an emergent universe building exercise in narrative TV and blockbuster movies. That shit existed to be shared and kvetched and eye rolled about, in the way that things that totally don't matter but annoy or provoke you anyway are kvetched and eye rolled about.
Since then, the important world has opted to go FUCKING BONKERS. There’s a huge racist oatmeal brain in The White House. The culture is permanently struck through with a vein of conservative paranoia about pizza restaurants and liberal paranoia about Vladimir Putin secretly running America.
Every day, we wake up and are exposed to some new dumbass saying dumbass shit about, for instance, the truth of the existence of carbon-affected climate change that will probably disinhibit the world if we don’t do something about it, or the legal status of a group of refugees seeking shelter in the United States, or “Concerned editorials” about demographic shifts in the United States making the country less white, or any number of other terrifying and important real world issues.
Oh, to live once again in the time when Tebow was the thing worth rolling your eyes about! Skip remembers. He remembers how comparatively fun it was, to blow out every Monday morning and suggest that whatever quarterback had a shitty game the night before should be shitcanned and replaced with a dude who can’t throw. For just a second, a segment, he sought to bring us all back to a more innocent time, a time when dumb shit was just that, some dumb shit you could fucking ignore. Tebowmania was brain bleeding nonsense when it happened, but now, it is the hallmark of better times.
Would that we could return.