If you’re a fan of professional sports, odds are you have a favorite journalist. Whether it’s local news, social media, or mainstream media, you have an analyst that you respect enough to follow consistently. Sadly, there’s a very good chance that expert doesn’t have the same platform as another kind of expert, the sensationalist. The sensationalist analyst loves to sporadically spew off sports takes that are either A. obviously wrong, B. totally offensive, or C. a little bit of both.
But it’s easy to see why. It’s a proven business model. Consumers are far more likely to tune into a show that excites them or causes an emotional reaction than one that states the obvious. In a way, sports media has become like pro wrestling from the 1990’s, valuing controversy over content.
Don’t believe me? Then scroll on down.
“Skip” the BS: Exposing the Sensationalist Talking Heads That Are Ruining Sports Media
For this article, I’ve decided to target the big three. I’m going after the three biggest names in mainstream sports television coverage with just a handful of their more infamous takes. I’ll start with FS1’s Colin Cowherd, and then I’ll move on to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, before finishing with arguably the medium’s biggest offender, FS1’s Skip Bayless.
How about the time Colin…
- Pretended concussions weren’t a big deal?
- Said Kevin Durant would be a bust?
- Said he loved Oregon because of all the white people?
- Started a feud with Baker Mayfield over his personality?
- Said Eddie Guerrero’s life didn’t matter because he was a Pro Wrestler?
- Called John Wall “not a very bright guy” for doing a dance before a game?
- Made some really uncomfortable comments about Sean Taylor after his death?
- Called John Harbaugh the “Jeff Fisher of the East Coast?”
- Implied that people from the Dominican Republic weren’t intelligent?
- Couldn’t decide how he felt about Aaron Rodgers?
Stephen A. Smith
How about the time Smith…
- Claimed women provoke the men who hit them?
- Said Dwayne Haskins (5.04 40 time, 194 rushing yards vs. 5,396 passing yards) was “more of a runner than a thrower?”
- DOUBLED DOWN on his Dwayne Haskins take?!
- Called Chip Kelly racist?
- Insinuated world class women’s soccer players missed a block because they “didn’t want to mess up their hair?”
- Proved he knew absolutely nothing about hockey?
- Had a horribly tone-deaf take about Josh Gordon’s mental health?
- Identified the match-up between Hunter Henry (had been on IR all year) and Derrick Johnson (hadn’t been on the Chiefs roster all season) as a crucial one for the “San Diego” Chargers game against the Kansas City Chiefs?
- Said that Ben Roethlisberger has never come across as a bad guy?
How about the time Skip…
- Claimed Kobe Bryant’s rape charges helped him sell shoes?
- That Landry Jones was going to win the Heisman?
- Called Derek Jeter a drug abuser?
- Said teams shouldn’t draft American-born white players in the first round?
- Called Manti Te’o the next Ray Lewis?
- Believed Matt Flynn could lead the Seattle Seahawks to victory, but not that Russell Wilson guy?
- Said Vince Young was better than Michael Vick?
- Called Carmelo Anthony a better scorer than LeBron James?
- Thought Jerry Jones would regret taking Dak Prescott instead of Paxton Lynch?
- Mocked Peyton Manning for picking the Denver Broncos over the San Francisco 49ers?
- Accused Von Miller of disappearing in big games?
- Thought Derek Fisher would be a better head coach than Steve Kerr?
- Picked Josh Freeman over Cam Newton?
- Emphatically preferred Robert Griffin III to Andrew Luck?
- Claimed Johnny Manziel would be much better than Russell Wilson?
- Made a wildly inappropriate joke about domestic abuse?
- Doubted that Luck could be as good as Tebow in the NFL?
- Called Tavon Austin the “Barry Sanders” of receivers?
- Claimed the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants couldn’t make the playoffs?
- Was very, very high on the future Browns teams starring Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson?
The Real Problem
The problem here isn’t that these guys aren’t always right about sports. Everyone is wrong sometimes. A handful of bad takes every now and then is totally natural. If sports were predictable enough that analysts batted 1000, they’d be dreadfully boring. The problem is that these guys are often wrong on purpose. They’ll defend a bad take to the grave instead of taking responsibility or holding themselves responsible for bad, and sometimes offensive takes.
Sensationalism sells, and you’ll get significantly more circulation if you’re saying something controversial. If you come out on your TV show or your podcast and say, “Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are pretty good quarterbacks,” you won’t ruffle any feathers. But if you come out and say something like, “Philip Rivers is better than Patrick Mahomes because he wins the big games,” people will be livid! They’ll tweet about it, they’ll share videos of you saying it, and like it or not, they will have shared your name. Hell, at this point, even some of the players are getting in on it.
It’s viral marketing. It’s accidental advertising. In an era with over 27,000 channels on televisions, countless YouTube channels, podcasts, and streaming services, relevance is invaluable, and these guys know that by sacrificing their integrity and saying deliberately upsetting and incorrect things, they can continue to make tons and tons of money.
So the next time someone retweets a video with one of these talking heads saying something stupid, or you just happen to watch them say something volatile at an airport bar, don’t take it personally. Take it for what it is, a joke, and move on with your day. If we stop being outraged by the things they say, they’ll cease to exist.
And who knows? Maybe the major sports networks will go back to airing meaningful content.