The following is a freelance submission by DJ Byrnes, a writer at Eleven Warriors and someone not too fond of FS1’s new direction under Jamie Horowitz. 

FOX Sports 1 launched Aug. 17th, 2013 and it billed itself as a budding oasis in the hellscape of big-time sports coverage long monopolized by ESPN. That mirage died a violent death when FOX poached Jamie Horowitz from ESPN in May 2015.

When asked by the New York Times to describe his programming philosophy, Horowitz cited Norman Lear, the creator of All in the Family:

“He said the guiding light for his shows was, ‘Don’t worry whether this opinion or that view is likable. It just has to be real and honest, and then you build around that.’”

To an outsider, it looks like Horowitz doesn’t understand the quote. How else would he explain the prominence of Skip Bayless, Jason Whitlock, Colin Cowherd, and Clay Travis on his network?

Corporate programmers don’t give a damn about honesty. They want what all ghouls want – bone marrow, which in this case is clicks and views. Television executives would broadcast pigs fornicating if it guaranteed a bottom line satisfying to paymasters and wouldn’t draw FCC ire.

After all, shit sells in America.

Credit to Bayless and Cowherd, though. They came up in a simpler era, where people paid $99 a year to have Skip Bayless columns faxed to them. They forged media empires with big words and piping hot takes. There were more talented writers — even sportswriters who read more than three books a year — but none of them could go paycheck for paycheck.

Cowherd can at least fall back on radio, where the hot take is eternal. His sizable, albeit smaller, cult of greying, not-so-middle-aged men will follow him into the grave.

Bayless’ schtick aged well as the 30-year-old former biology classmate with three “bullshit” DUIs flipping off your Facebook feed. Bayless’ act is so hilariously convoluted; he marauds the landscape like a vampire, in search of athletic events into which he can inject bankrupt abominations like “clutch gene” and “overrated.”

Travis and Whitlock are two less-heartier cuts from the same stale six-inch Subway sub, which makes their existence no less frustrating. They see themselves as beacons of independent thought while carrying water for the largest media conglomerate in the world.

Travis wilted into low-rent Donald Trump, right down to the dog whistle racism, but you don’t get near the top of the SEC media snake pit with docile takes. You do it by trolling mental health crisis hotlines and writing caveman screeds like this, from Travis’ 2008 book, hilariously entitled Man: The Book:

Just as men trained themselves in archery, sword-fighting, ax-swinging, and disemboweling on the verdant plains of old England, so too, must you train yourself on the oaken tables of the bar. You have to know what not to drink, what not to wear, and how to use gay men to your advantage. (Gay men are like the calvary of the modern bar.) Soon, like Neo in The Matrix, all around you the bar will spin with exquisite slowness.

These are the pawns of Travis’ rudimentary game: the infantile everyman that romanticizes disembowelment but also can’t work up the courage to talk to women without consulting a sexual assault playbook.

This is why he frequently plays the “P.C. Police” card—as if there are vigilantes riding around America, dragging overpaid sportswriters and their families from their beds and burning their ill-gotten gains to the ground.

Our society isn’t that just.

Whitlock’s career looks like side-by-side mugshots of somebody spiraling into the depths of methamphetamine addiction. Only the meth in this case is “Actually, I’m the only smart one” diatribes usually reserved by high schoolers with an Accutane prescription.

Now, FOX pays him to dress like a strip club buffet connoisseur and grope memes like only a 49-year-old man can. At least he had the decency to shutter his Tumblr account.

Even with their wealth, the Four Trashmen of the Apocalypse are pitiful figures. Their ratings no longer justify their swollen egos, and they never will again, because their best days as thinkers and entertainers are behind them.

ESPN struck “gold” with First Take, which achieved a ubiquitous barbershop apotheosis, but hordes aren’t flocking to whatever Skip calls his new show. Hordes didn’t follow Cowherd when he switched over. It would dilute “horde” to apply it to Travis’ and Whitlock’s combined fan bases.

It’s almost as if ESPN’s superior distribution platforms mattered, and people have a bevy of other options. FOX Sports didn’t kill ESPN. It poorly mimicked its worst features when the company loses millions of subscribers a year.

It’s trying to purchase an audience with intellectual capital more fraudulent than a Skip Bayless Facebook Live comment.

When this era collapses, like all houses of cards eventually do, Horowitz might reflect upon how that quote got lost in translation. But then he’ll check his bank account and think he got it right all along.

About D.J. Byrnes

D.J. Byrnes is a college football blogger hailing from Marion, Ohio. He normally sells words to in exchange for currency.

  • Dale Moog

    You failed to mention The shutttering of FOX Sports Live then turning it into a late night talk show. this is horrible

  • Ben

    What was the point kid this article?! It just reads as one long bitchfest by someone should is jealous of other individual’s careers. There is nothing substantive in here whatsoever.

    • Kyle J

      Totally agree. This guy has no audience and he is making fun of the others.

  • DaveP

    I imagine that ESPN originally started mass producing the argument shows to fill the time previously occupied by highlight shows. Highlight shows were cheap to produce but were made unnecessary now that you can pull up instant highlights on your phone. Argument shows were cheap to produce (throw a couple of old writers in front of a camera and let them spew) until recently. It seems that now that the windbag sports personalities have gotten pricey, ESPN should go find the next cheap to produce show. Perhaps they will rediscover Aussie football and start showing them again like they regularly did in the 1980s.

  • YouAreWrongAndDumb

    This is excellent analysis.

  • Kyle J

    I honestly think this piece was trash. Clay and Whitlock don’t have the same opinion as the writer so he’s better.

  • Denver Buckeye

    The point D.J. buries in his litany of metaphors is that Fox Sports had a huge opportunity to be a great sports network alternative to ESPN that everyone hoped for and, instead, tried to build a foundation on the garbage ESPN tossed out. Here’s an idea for Fox Sports — if you want to steal anything from ESPN, steal ESPN 1978 and show sports, sports and more sports with a highlight show to fill in the dead air. I think we’re all pretty much fed up with opinion shows.

  • newdog301

    “Whatever Skip calls his new show.”

    What a lazy article. You know exactly what the show is called.

    The tweets you posted prove Skip is a sports fan like all of us. Go through Twitter hour by hour with #SuperBowl and you’ll see Tom Brady is overrated early on and Tom Brady is the GOAT later.

    And don’t pretend the PC Police don’t exist. There are thousands of people on Twitter whose goal in life is to find someone who makes a misstep and end their career. This is the newest form of bullying.

  • AZWildCat

    FS1 is spiraling down. Seems Horowitz got rid of the originals brought in aging windbags and all integrity was lost. Unwatchable.