First Take Inside The Numbers… Enter If You Dare

SkipHSASH

I’m actually scared to admit this… but I routinely watch ESPN2′s First Take. You know, the show that runs opposite SportsCenter weekday mornings and “stars” Skip Bayless somehow making a living out of being… well, Skip Bayless.  The show had a simple enough premise – take a loudmouthed, polarizing contrarian (Bayless), have him take part in debates, and sprinkle in expert analysis, news, and relevant interviews.  Debates were even marketed as 1st & 10 and appeared later in the afternoon.  To be honest, in spite of Skip’s professional, theatrical douchebaggery, the show was watchable… especially for someone that operates a blog called Awful Announcing.  

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But recently, the show has gone from entertainingly awful (like an intentionally wretched scary movie where we’re supposed to be in on the joke) to just awful awful (think Ecks vs Sever or Battlefield Earth).  Skip Bayless is more empowered and ridiculous than ever (the troubling part is his incredible self-awareness).  The interview and news segments are largely gone.  Now, the show largely focuses on Skip Bayless: Villain Of The Sporting Universe.  First Take has gotten away from the diversity that made it tolerable, to a revolving door of ESPN analysts and columnists to argue with Bayless.  If you’re thinking this gets old quickly… it does.

Nevertheless, I was particularly intrigued by Wednesday’s First Take from this week because of the perfect storm that had the potential to produce the single most awful sports show of all-time.  Not only was Screamin’ A. Smith in to debate Skippy, not only was a pointless, in jest LeBron James tweet to John Clayton treated as breaking news, but we also had the story of the decade in sports – Tim Tebow being named the starter in Denver.

Since the summer months and Merril Hoge’s rant out of nowhere, Tim Tebow has been ESPN’s obsession.  Let me be clear – I like Tim Tebow.  I like that he takes a stand for who he is, I buy into his character, I believe he’s a good guy that may or may not find success in the NFL.  Whatever.  Let him play it out.  End of story, right?  No.  ESPN has made Tebow into some sort of Frankenstein character and debated his quarterbacking skills, personality, character, hygiene, sex life, and everything in between.  It’s nauseating.  They have shoved so much Tebow down our throats that 98% of the country hates him because of how much ESPN (and other networks – I’m looking at you CBS, Fox, and everyone else) have obsessed over him.  It makes Brett Favre look like an under the radar player.  

So, facing a two hour show of Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, Tim Tebow, and LeBron James, I did what any insane, mentally imbalanced sports blogger would do.  I dived headfirst into an in-depth statistical study and retro blog on Wednesday’s First Take.  Do I need a psych eval?  Probably.  Do I feel like scooping my eyeballs out with a melon baller?  Possibly.  Did I discover some disturbing, horrifying statistics that you want to read and laugh about?  Absolutely…

Below is a breakdown of First Take, including debate topics, times, personalites, teases, and quotes, and even a bit of a running diary feel as well.  You may want to take a deep breath or grab a blunt object before you go in.  This truly is a disturbing universe…

The show opens with a video package focusing on the thrill of seeing Skip Bayless debate Stephen A. Smith (:31)

Timeout.

Consider everything that was happening in the sports world Wednesday morning.  The Lions stayed unbeaten on MNF two nights earlier.  The Tigers had won Game 3 of the ALCS.  Two more LCS games were being played that night.  College football is in midseason.  NASCAR is nearing the midway point of their Chase.  Theo Epstein was on the verge of going from the Red Sox to the Cubs.  And yet, our opening vignette is Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.  We’re not even half a minute into this experiment and already I’m volunteering for the next Saw movie.  (Wait, that franchise is done?  You mean I’m stuck here for the next two hours?  Oh God…)

After a hearty handshake, pre debate talk focuses on Stephen A’s mother (1:11) including Skip Bayless unfortunately and predictably saying “word to your mother.”

 At least this beats Cowherd.  I think…

Debate #1 – TEBOW I (9:00)

I label this debate TEBOW I because there are actually two more Tebow debates to go.  I kid you not, there wasn’t just one, not two, but THREE debates all revolving around Tim Tebow.  The first one was highlighted by the news of Tebow’s starting role and Stephen A. invoking the word “DISGRACE” seventy billion times.  I would go more into detail, but I’d say this video sums it up nicely…

http://youtube.com/watch?v=i5OlolbLXvw

Debate #2 – Cowboys/Patriots “Controversy” (3:47)

Our contractually obligated Cowboys segment thankfully involved the Patriots as well, so we were able to cross those both off the First Take checklist.  The focus was a “so what” quote from Cowboys defender Marcus Spears.  In spite of the inane quality, at 3:47, this debate was actually stomachable.  Until you consider…

Debate #3 – Cowboys ESPN Power rankings (4:26)

… there was almost four and a half more mintues of debate regarding the position of the Cowboys in ESPN’s Power Rankings.  If I were czar of the western hemisphere, my first act would be to outlaw any form of NFL Power Rankings.  College football uses a ranking system to judge the superiority of one team to another.  The NFL uses standings.  Games.  Wins.  Losses.  The purpose of producing NFL Power Rankings is to fabricate debatable statements such as “Team A is actually better than Team B” or “Team C is overrated” or “Team D is underrated” for phony debate shows.

Wait a minute…

Seriously though.  NFL Power Rankings is not a story.  But hey, if an ESPN show can spend five minutes hyping and debating ESPN.com Power Rankings, that’s like Christmas and New Year’s wrapped into one.

In case you’re really dying to know, Skip thinks the Cowboys are underrated at #15.

LeBron Tease 1 of 5 (:48)

There were five separate teases about LeBron James in this show heading into a commercial break.  Five.

AFC Power Rankings (6:10)

Fantastic.  More power rankings.  Except these are Kordell Stewart’s AFC Power Rankings.  Where they rank in importance to ESPN.com’s Power Rankings or Hugh Douglas’ NFC Power Rankings is for the viewer to decide I guess.

After Kordell is done, Skip Bayless enters to music befit for the evil empire in Star Wars.  Seriously, we just saw him debate for almost twenty minutes, but he gets entrance music for this segment.  Welcome to the second level of hell.

Patriots, Mangini, and LeBron Tease 2 of 5 (:35)

I think they want us to stick around for this LeBron story…

Mangini Segment and Melo/LeBron Tease 3 of 5 (5:47)

If I can say one positive thing about this show, Eric Mangini is growing on me.  He speaks plainly and clearly, gives good insight, and doesn’t come off as a total jerk.  Basically, everything his coaching personality was not.  Seriously, Mangini is turning into one of my favorite analysts at the network.  This segment was actually quite enlightening.

Carmelo Anthony Interview (7:50)

Believe it or not, the first half of this interview focused on LeBron James.  There was also the customary throw down the gauntlet by Skip Bayless at Carmelo Anthony and Jay Crawford lamely trying to sell us on some sort of confrontation that was bound to happen between the two.  It didn’t, and the interview was largely uneventful.  But hey, at least they finally got to talk about LeBron!  Glad we could get that out of the way.

Debate #4 – NBA players league and Moss/Megatron tease (5:30)

Clearly Stephen A. is in his wheelhouse here and it showed.  This was the fastest moving debate of the show and the least annoying.  I wonder if there is a corollary between the two…

More talk about Stephen A.’s mom (1:22)

Have no fear, Scream N Skip get back to what they do best – talk about themselves.  This minute of agony included the following gem from Skip:

“Jemele Hill’s mom and Stephen A’s mom love me.” 

http://youtube.com/watch?v=NmNObROcBOo

Debate #5 – TEBOW II Feat. Hugh Douglas (7:32)

As if the first nine minute Tim Tebow debate wasn’t enough, there were seven and a half more minutes to lead off hour number two.  The fact that both hours of this program were led off with a quarterback change for a 1-4 team should be stunning.  Again, this is happening during the middle of the ALCS and NLCS.  Consider that while TEBOW II was happening, a breaking news scroll came across the screen telling of Theo Epstein’s agreement with the Cubs.

I watched this debate again to see what was needed in these seven and a half minutes that wasn’t addressed in the first nine minutes.  Clearly, it was this canned line from Skip Bayless that didn’t get out in TEBOW I when replying to Stephen A…

“… not their cup of Tebow…”

Not to be outdone, Skip followed with this explanation of Tim Tebow’s greatness.  This is a real quote describing Tim Tebow from Skip Bayless.  Really…

“Intangibles.  Force of nature.  Winner.  Leader.  Gamer.”

Jackhammer.  He forgot jackhammer.

Debate #6 – Megatron vs Moss (7:14)

This was a rehash from the previous day when Skip and the 2 Live Stews debated the same topic. (“We had a blast with it” opined Jay Crawford.  If by that he means I blew up my television with a small army of explosives, he’s correct.)  Never one for hyperbole, here’s what Skip had to say on the Megatron vs Moss question:

“This question is the dumbest question that has ever been asked on this show.”

Actually, I think the dumbest question that has ever been asked on this show is why someone gave Lawrence Frank a live microphone.

Debate #7 – Mark Sanchez/Jets (6:38)

Again, six and a half minutes about an underachieving media obsessed NFL team.  This time it’s Stephen A. Smith complaining about Mark Sanchez getting attention for anything he says.  Shakespeare would be jealous of the profound irony in this segment.

LeBron Tease 4 of 5 (:26)

If you’re keeping track at home, LeBron James has been mentioned at every commercial break except for one.

NFC Power Rankings (4:57)

1 hour and 28 minutes into the show, we have our first and only mention of Drew Brees.  A minute later, we have our first and only mention of Aaron Rodgers.  These are the two best quarterbacks in football.  And yet, they are an afterthought on this show behind Tony Romo, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, and Kyle Orton.  LeBron James football player has been more talked about than either Brees or Rodgers.  That’s First Take in a nutshell.

And yes, we had the same terrifying Skip Bayless entrance music.  Fourth level of hell.

Lebron Tease 5 of 5 (:10)

Somebody please make it stop.

Debate #8 – LeBron James Football Player (7:30)

LeBron’s tweet to Clayton was actually referred to as the “tweet heard round the world” by Jay Crawford.  Mongolia is waiting on pins and needles for how this drama plays out.

We also had our first mention of baseball in this segment.  Not the actual playoffs, just the word “baseball” mentioned in a LeBron James basketball/football debate.  This came 1 hour and 40 minutes into the show.  It was the only allusion to the sport of baseball in the entire show.

Even though the segment was orginally supposed to be about LeBron James as a football player, it centered on Stephen A. Smith criticizing LeBron for God only knows what.  Also featured was Skip Bayless Quote Of Delirium #582:

“Allow me to psychoanalyze my friend Stephen A. Smith because I know you better than you know yourself.”

I’m starting to think there are some sort of jedi mind tricks at hand here.  I can’t stop watching at this point.  The hypnotic fright, dread, and terror of the last 100 minutes has drawn me into some sort of evil mind-controlled trance.  I… must kill… the queen.  I… must kill… the queen.

Eagles Tease (:15) & Debate #9 – Eagles (3:34)

If you’re thinking ESPN was maxed out on their favorite stories in this show with Tim Tebow, the Dallas Cowboys, and LeBron James… we haven’t even talked about the DREAM TEAM yet!!!  Thank God there were two hours to this show so we can cover every important sports story.

Tebow tease (:48)

You’re kidding me, right?  First Take is going to end the show with Tim Tebow?  This can’t be real.

Tebow Mashup (:44)

Coming out of break, ESPN somehow hypes their own Tebow obsession by showing no less than five shows debating Tim Tebow in a mashup vignette.  NFL Live, Numbers Never Lie, Around The Horn, NFL32, Around The Horn (again), and SportsCenter were featured.

Five different ESPN shows all talking about the same thing… Tim Tebow.  

Debate #10 – Tebow III (4:15)

The last debate centers on the question on the minds of every sports fan.  What will the record of the Denver Broncos be in their next five games?

I hope the tape of this show is either saved in the Smithsonian or launched into outer space.  That way, some sort of futuristic ape civilization will know why the human race failed.

Recap

If you’ve made it this far, God bless you, enjoy a cookie.  On the Wednesday October 12th episode of ESPN2′s First Take, there was…

1:22:12 of show time

21:31 on Tim Tebow (26.1%)

15:33 on NFL Power Rankings

8:54 on LeBron James (plus time in the Melo Interview)

8:31 on the Dallas Cowboys

2:33 seconds talking about Stephen A. Smith’s mother

0 seconds talking about MLB Playoffs

0 seconds talking about college football

0 seconds on any other sport in existence

That’s right.  According to First Take, the MLB Playoffs do. not. exist.  Nor does college football.  In fact, anything outside the NFL and LeBron James might as well be your local bowling alley’s league night.

In total, there were also…

52 mentions of Tim Tebow

21 mentions of LeBron James

12 mentions of Kyle Orton

6 mentions of Tom Brady

3 mentions of “Dream Team”

2 mentions of Woody Paige

1 mention of Aaron Rodgers

1 mention of Drew Brees

0 mentions of any Major League Baseball player

Every 2.3 minutes, the name Tim Tebow was uttered on this show.  When I say ESPN has an obsession with Tim Tebow… this is what I’m $%@* talking about!!!  When we criticize ESPN for sticking to their predetermined narratives, I’m talking about a show that mentions LeBron James and the Dream Team and Woody Paige more than any college football, soccer, NASCAR, NHL or MLB team combined.  

That was one episode of First Take Inside the Numbers.  Let’s hope we never have to walk down this road again.

Matt Yoder

About Matt Yoder

Managing Editor of Awful Announcing and award winning sportswriter. Bloguin consigliere. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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