Where does one begin with ESPN, the sports channel that started out with funny guys like Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick delivering needed sports news and highlights but turned into this giant octopus that has become indispensable and irresistible to what seems well over half the population of America?
ESPN has drugged the American sports public and lulled them into becoming so desperate for something to stuff into the emptiness of their meager lives and molded them into nebulae so dependent on a fix that they’ll actually get up in the morning and watch First Take, or more properly First Fake, a sort of contrived debate show involving Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless, two utterly unlikable gasbags who pontificate as the final decision makers as to who are winners and who are losers in the world of sport.
Stephen A Smith, a glib, bespectacled and proudly sartorial black man, is a winner. Stephen A Smith will in his own way inform you he is a winner because he is an insider and you are an outsider who stands in awe of his standing with top of the line black super star athletes AND their beautiful wonderful wives who are his trusted and intimate best friends, like Lebron James, to whom he is privy on all matters of dramatic importance, is even better friends with Carmelo Anthony of HIS New York Knicks AND Carmelo’s beautiful wonderful charming wife, and even better friends with D-Wade, or Duane Wade, who is without a doubt the finest father and human being on the planet as well as in the National Basketball Association and has taken he, Stephen A, into his confidence on all matters of his own personal importance, so that when the hungry fan is in a frenzy to want to know if D-Wade is going to re-sign with the Miami Heat or on his contract year seek a trade that would break the heart of an entire state, Stephen A will let you know as soon as a very busy D-Wade, with all his projects to give back and be good, lets him know.
Oh how Stephen A. relishes your hanging on his every word and meaningful phrase!
Stephen A sometimes becomes so deliriously giddy with his self-importance at being the best friend of at least half the elite class of black athletes that he giggles like a man who has just gotten laid by a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader because he knows this would aggravate and probably anger the very territorial Skip Bayless, his trumped up nemesis who is an unabashed advocate of his precious Cowboys, about which he has written numerous books and finds even more excuses for their tragic failures to win a Super Bowl in over 20 years, a fact Stephen A glories in and rubs in on Skip every time he defends them.
Stephen A also owns a very in-your-face-dead-serious-authoritative-know-it-all tenor and I-mean-business mien when he’s on his high horse over the defense of one of the most obscene idiots on the sporting scene, one Floyd Mayweather Jr, the welterweight cheese champion of a boxing era mostly evaporated, a person once imprisoned for beating women (all is forgiven by Stephen A although he is passionate about his defense of women because of his devotion to his mother and sisters), a braggart, an excessive collector of multiple gaudy luxury items that so impress Stephen A., who is his very close friend and special guest at his mansions, and refers to his very, very close friend smugly, almost giggling, as “Money.”
What Stephen A, who knows less about boxing than he does about baseball, which is nothing, will never say and can’t because what he is essentially is a shill, is that in a genuine boxing era, like the 1970s, “Money” would have gotten his ass beaten into punchy submission in less than 5 rounds by the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Marvin Hagler, all of whom fought each other in the tough heyday era of the 1970s AND could punch, a talent Money totally lacks. Stephen A and Skip repeatedly debate and shill Mayweather’s fight with Manny Pacquiao when both are far over-the-hill and appealing only to those who know absolutely nothing about boxing but are caught up in the phony emotion these two clowns trump up along with savvy promoters adept at duping the public into spending millions to watch what anybody with a boxing education knows is a hoax.
Stephen A, who off-handedly refers to athletes not considered elite as “scrubs,” which is what he was as a basketball player, feels so exalted by his throne at ESPN that he has failed to consider that each one of these scrubs was a superstar in high school, a star in college, and would kick his ass at anything involving a ball. Stephen A, a front runner surrounding himself only by the ultimate winners, and not the also-rans who have productive careers and almost win championships, is America’s foremost jockstrap-inhaler, a status so visually and audibly nauseating that the sole reason for his being in his venue is that the American sports fan, out of boredom and dissatisfaction at his own ignominy, must have a powerful gene urging a hatred of self that can only be assuaged by punishing himself by watching and hating Stephen A--another sort of drug.
Unless, of course, this sports fan hates Stephen A’s counterpart on First Fake, Skip Bayless, even more.
Mr. Bayless, a sharp, intense 60ish man, non-drinker, highly educated, dedicated and disciplined long distance runner, is unlike Stephen A in that he is white. Also unlike Stephen A, Skip is NOT close to athletes, possibly because it’s impossible to be so when he knows without doubt at some point he is going to rip them, unless, of course, they are Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, two super stars he idolizes as near perfect and above condemnation.
Unlike Stephen A, who hugs black athletes as well as black hip-hop entertainers and comedians who come on the show like long lost brothers and deliver bar-room opinions of sports teams and idols, Skip delivers a quick, curt handshake. Unlike Stephen A., who thrives on attention and adoration, Skip seems to enjoy being hated as the contrarian, the curmudgeon, the provocateur.
Unlike Stephen A, Skip avoids ongoing flowery phrasing, verbosity and hyperbole by taking down or consulting notes and concentrating on statistics and long thought out opinions delivered in a stern professorial way that Stephen A often finds maddening. LIKE Stephen A., Skip will go on seemingly endless, unendurable monologues so outlandish in their claims that Stephen A will yawn, drop his head, shake his head, sigh hugely, pop his eyes out in outraged disbelief, and finally step in to interrupt, while Skip, as Stephen A retaliates, smirks, tightens his mouth in a bitchy way, and transforms his face into condescending, almost gloating smugness as if Stephen A’s excessiveness is an admission of defeat and a victory for he, Skip Bayless, the older and wiser of these two choreographed buffoons.
Unlike Stephen A, who will actually, from time to time, admit he has been wrong in a rare act of humility, Skip can be consistently wrong about viciously ripping a player or team for years, even decades, even when every statistic is stacked against him, even when every ex athlete and pundit on ESPN disagrees with him, yet continue to defend his stance and insist with an almost demented unreasonableness that he is right--like a dog refusing to give up a bone.
Not to mention Skip’s irrational attachment to HIS Dallas Cowboys and defense of their legendary chokes and excuses for failures, of late, and for the last few years, Skip, a Christian, has developed a man crush on one Tim Tebow, a Heisman trophy winning quarterback who has been cut by every team in the league but whom Skip maintains can be a success if only he’d get a chance! Tebow, a devoted and disgustingly humble ever-practicing Christian schooled as the modern athlete in conducting the corny correct goody-goody interview and delivering bland answers to stupid questions from desperate sportswriters and TV reporters, kneeled in thanks to Jesus after every touchdown and victory during his brief successes with the Denver Broncos, further ingratiating himself to the born-again zealots while sickening those fed up with Jesus crazed athletes thanking and crediting the Lord for victories and personal successes, as if they were chosen.
Tebow, whose performance became an embarrassment after winning a few games in the last minutes for Denver after stinking up the field for 3 and 1/2 quarters, has been cut repeatedly by NFL teams, and a long list of scouts and ex quarterbacks have come on First Take and testified to Skip that Tebow absolutely cannot pass nor process an offense or solve a defense and has no chance to make an NFL team while Stephen A nods knowingly, snickering.
Yet Skip persists and runs off his gamut of statistics and comparisons and insistence that Tebow BELONGS on a NFL team while Stephen A, also a Christian, who admits the Christian boy is a wonderful person and wishes him nothing but the best, appears at first frustrated, then exasperated, and finally infuriated as he screams, “THE MAN CAN’T PASS!" Whereupon Stephen A reads off the list of those who are experts and feel Tebow stinks, but Skip carries on, believing in his “eye test,” which above all prevails, and at last Stephen A refuses to further the debate, clamming up as Skip blithely maintains “I know I’m right” and claims the reason Stephen A refuses to continue the debate is because Stephen A knows he, Skip, is right, whereupon Stephen A, who has professed during tender moments on previous shows that he “loves Skip,” waves his hands at Skip in an angry fed up manner and unleashes a diatribe at his dear friend, which Skip, who during tender moments on previous shows has openly and nauseatingly professed his love for Stephen A, continues his asinine and ridiculous defense of Tim Tebow, who no longer plays pro football and has become a color man and shill for college football.
Sometimes, as the female moderator, a sort of statue or fixture, watches and listens with swooning attention, the two geniuses shout over each other and drown each other out in their love affair and nothing it seems is accomplished but hot air that evidently raises ratings and attracts commercial sponsors and continues ESPN’s siege in taking over America with sustained and well orchestrated inanity.